January 17

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Find Your WHY: 2 Easy Ways to Discover Your Life’s Purpose

By Hanson Cheng

January 17, 2021


Take 20 minutes to find your Why so you don't lose $127,895 in 10 months like I did.

This is my income tax return from 2014. 

After my company (The Green Spoon) failed, I had to move back in with my mother and lived in her basement and off of friends' couches for the next couple of years trying to piece my life back together. 

I was 34 yrs old and dead broke.

At night, while I battled depression and anxiety, I had a LOT of time to focus on why I failed.  I could have blamed it on a lot of things.  But the main thing I kept coming back to was Why.

  • What was the reason for starting this business?
  • Was this lifestyle in alignment with my long-term goals and core values?
  • Did I even want to DO this with my life?  
picture of Hanson and Green Spoon

My first order of food deliveries being prepped

The Green Spoon was a food delivery business.  Our product was pre-made healthy meals that we delivered to people to heat up and eat throughout the week.


I started it because in one month, I tried another food delivery business and I got into great shape. 

That was the only reason.  

I didn't know how anything about nutrition or how to plan out meals for the week. 

I didn't know how to cook. 

I didn't know the first thing about starting a food delivery company. 

What's a Why?  Why does it matter for starting a business?

 The only reason I started this business was that I thought it would be a good way to make money.  I am sharing my personal life with you so you see why this is the most important step of creating a life with integrity, a business, or discovering the ideal partner for your entire life. 

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote a book called, "The How of Happiness, A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want."  Lyubomorisky wrote that only 10% of happiness comes from extrinsic incentives like money, fame, and status. 

Your Why makes up the bulk of the rest of the 90% of happiness. Your Why consists of the things and reasons that fulfill you. Your Why is the source of your intrinsic motivation.

Some examples are:

  • Inspiration:  inspiring others to recognize their full potential
  • Teaching:  teaching others how to make better lives for themselves and their families
  • Relationship:  being present with your family and loved ones
  • Influence:  influencing others to make a change in the world or themselves

Your WHY is the clear path that leads to becoming the person you want to be. 

Why Is It Important To Find Your Why?

If you DON'T know who you want to become, your Why will help you find the way.

If you DO know who you want to become, your Why will act as a compass for you for making life decisions. Such as what kind of business to start.

Starting a successful business and being happy don't need to be independent of each other.

Knowing how to find your Why will narrow down your choices so the only options you consider are the ones that are fulfilling AND profitable. Knowing your Why will also keep you going when your motivation inevitably dwindles.

Simon Sinek, Ted Talk speaker and the author of the book "Find Your Why", writes that it is only when you understand your "Why" (or your purpose) that you'll be more capable of pursuing the things that give you fulfillment. It will serve as your point of reference for all your actions and decisions from this moment on, allowing you to measure your progress and know when you have met your goals.

There's no singular way to find your WHY.

I'm going to share 2 of my favorite step-by-step guides on how to find you Why. You don't need to do both of them. If you only do 1, you'll have a good start finding your life's purpose.

2 Ways to Find Your Why

1:  Ikigai:  The Japanese Discovery Process for Happiness

The term " ikigai ," ( pronounced Ick-ee-guy ) (which can be translated to mean "a reason for being") is anything that gives a deep sense of purpose to a person's life and makes it worthwhile.

What is the one thing that you get up for every morning? What's the one thing you want to do every day and make progress towards that is more exciting than Netlfix. More entertaining than alcohol. And more fulfilling than money.

If you have 6 minutes, this video gives a very good explanation of the concept of Ikigai and how it can help you find your Why.

Ikigai is the thing in your life that shares 4 characteristics:

Ikigai Venn Diagram

Something that You Love (Your Passion):

What's something you could do for hours and get lost.  Some people call it flow state. 

Here are some examples of things I love and can do for hours:

  • I love writing
  • I love reading
  • I love teaching, motivating, and inspiring to people to get out of their comfort zones and realize their potential.
  • I love editing videos
  • I love learning new skills or improving current ones.

Something the world Needs (Your Mission):

What's something that you can put out into the world that would make it a better place?

Here are some personal examples of my mission:

  • Teach how to learn new skills 
  • Teach how to create successful businesses that make a difference in other people's lives.  
  • Teach about veganism

Something that Pays You Well (Your Profession): 

What's something that people would pay you a lot of money for?  Another way to find the answer here is to ask: what's something you know how to do that is very valuable for other people?

Here are some personal examples of my profession:

  • Setting up systems for companies to grow with less effort and more velocity
  • Finding and hiring key players for businesses to move the needle
  • Business strategy on how to maximize profit and minimize resource expenditures (monetary and personnel)

Something that You're Good at  (Your Vocation):

What's something that you're naturally pretty good at?  Sometimes, this is also something we haven't discovered about ourselves yet.  I didn't discover I was really good at photography and videography until I was 38 years old.  

Here are some personal examples of something I'm good at:

  • Learning skills REALLY fast
  • Setting up systems or hiring people to follow a proven process to achieve a measurable result.
  • Telling stories
  • Making people feel comfortable or confident
  • Rallying people for a common cause

Take a few minutes to go through all 4 of these Ikigai exercises to discover your formula for happiness and long term success.

2:  How To Find Your Why with Simon Sinek

These action steps are taken directly from Simon Sinek's book "Find Your Why".  Simon Sinek has helped countless readers discover their Why.  I condensed his process into 3 steps to make it more digestible. If you choose this method, you'll need a "Why" buddy. Someone who is committed to helping you find your Why.  This can be your mother, friend, or significant other.  It could also be someone who also wants to discover their Why. 

They don't need to be trained psychologists.  And you don't need to know them very well, but you need to be comfortable telling them every detail of the events that have shaped you into who you are. 

Try to make sure your "Why" buddy has never heard your stories before. 

(Know Thyself) : Pick 5 Stories Good or Bad

Our Why is shaped by the experiences (good or bad) that have carved out our core beliefs.

The first step in this method is to learn about what has shaped you into who you are today.

The best way to do this is to gather a list of stories from your past that have impacted you in some way or another. Here are two ways to do this:

Method 1:  Peaks and Valleys

Draw a horizontal line across a piece of paper.  Now plot events in your life above and below this line.  

Things ABOVE this line are "happy" events.  Stories below the line aren't things you want to relive again, but have had a huge impact on who you are today. 

The HIGHER you plot the stories above the line, the more happy and fulfilling these experiences were.

The LOWER your plot the stories below the line, the more challenging and difficult they were.

Take note of the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. These will be the stories you share with your "Why" buddy. Each one of these events has carved out a core belief of who you are.

Method 2:  Memory Prompt

  • Who in your life has helped make you the person you are today (coach, mentor, teacher, family member)? Write down a specific time when they exemplified what you admire most about them, whether they were interacting with you or with someone else. How did hearing their words or watching their actions make you feel? Who else helped shape who you are today? Repeat as many times as you like.
  • Think of a day at work when, as you headed home, you might have said to yourself, “I would have done that for free.” What happened that day to make you say that?
  • Think of your worst day at work—the kind of day you hope never to go through again. What happened?
  • What is the earliest, specific, happy childhood memory that comes to your mind?
  • At school, what was an experience you loved?
  • What has been a pivotal moment in your life, one when you realized nothing would ever be the same?
  • What happened that changed the way you think about the world and your role in it?
  • What was a time when you gave of yourself to help someone else, after which you felt unbelievably good—like you had done something that mattered?
  • What have you accomplished that you’re really proud of? (Be sure to make a mental note of who else was involved. For example, who helped you, who cheered you on, who was waiting for you at the finish line?)

Source:  Sinek, Simon; Mead, David; Docker, Peter. Find Your Why (pp. 60-61). Penguin Publishing Group.

Analyze your Themes:

Now that you have a list of stories from the previous step, set up a time to get together with your "Why" Buddy.  Ideally, it can be in person.  Set aside enough time for both of you to go deep.  Do NOT rush this process. 

Share the most impactful stories you've experienced in your life with SPECIFICITY.  Specificity is the key. 

Get into the nitty-gritty so your "Why" Buddy can understand why these stories were so impactful for you. 

Don't get into the details of the temperature, or what was on tv that day (unless it truly impacted you on some level).  We want to get really specific on the details that impacted you viscerally on some level.  Emotions are the driver of your Why.  Get specific on the details of the stories that impacted you emotionally. Here's my example:

Too general: 

When I failed my business in 2014, it was really hard for me.  I felt like a failure and I was embarrassed to share this with my friends.

Specific Story:

When I failed my business in 2014, it was the most impactful "LOSS" in my life.  Everything was given to me or taken care of for me by my mother.  There was never a time in my life where I felt I didn't have a safety net of my mom bailing me out financially.  But this time, I lost $129k.  There was no more safety net. I felt alone and ashamed.  I had been living a lie up until this time with my friends and acquaintances.  I was maintaining an image of success, while every month, I was losing 10's of thousands of dollars in a business I wasn't passionate about.  I cared more about what people thought of me and that I was viewed as a success than actually providing value to other people or being authentic.  This loss was the best thing to happen to me.  I was metaphorically stripped naked.  I was exposed to everyone as a fraud with no skills. It forced me to acknowledge where I was. To really accept who I was at that point in time.  I didn't like this person.  And I finally took the time to think about who I would be proud to be.  Not based on who I thought my parents or friends would want me to be.  But who I really wanted to be. This was not an overnight journey.  It was me getting smacked in the face with an ultimatum.  I felt like I lost everything, so this time around, I might as well do what made me happy.  But I didn't know what made me happy. So that was the first step.  I needed to learn about who I wanted to be.  Who did I need to be that would make me happy?  This felt like a huge loss at the time.  But every day I wake up and I'm grateful I experienced this correction.  It was the universe recalibrating my course in life.  Throwing me down the path I was meant to go.  I picked up the skills I needed to feel empowered to create any life I wanted.  Along the way, the confidence, adequacy, and freedom from the judgment of others were things that became the new me.  I became the man I was proud to be.  Because the old me took the time to map out who I wanted to be. This "loss" me discover my Why.    

If you read this, this is not GOOD writing.  I wrote from my stream of consciousness.  I didn't edit this.  This is how I felt.  This is how you need to tell your stories.  Don't hold back.  Go all in.   

After you share your stories, let your "Why" buddy pick out common themes that show up in the stories.  A pattern or comment theme will show up in 2 or more stories.  

A good "Why" buddy will ask a LOT of questions to pull out the themes and patterns. 

Some examples of my common themes are fear of failing and feeling inadequate. 

Because of failing my business and my father not playing a role in my life (inadequacy), I NEVER wanted to feel like that again.  This drove me to become a learning machine, which helped me realize how much potential I had, which makes me want to share this and empower as many people as I can. 

Write out your WHY Statement: 

This is the formula for your Why Statement that Simon Sinek gives.  

To_ so that_

The first part is the CONTRIBUTION a person makes to the lives of others. 

The second part is the IMPACT of that contribution over time.  

This is Simon Sinek's Why Statement:

To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.

This is my Why Statement:

To teach people how to learn and grow so that they can realize their full potential so that they can then help others reach theirs.

What's your Why Statement?  

What Do I Do With My Why?

Great, I know my Why.  Now what Hanson?

Now that you know your Why, use this is your compass.  

Use it to as the general direction you are going whenever you decide to take on a partner, project, new business idea, client, etc. 

Your Why will help you get clarity when you're overwhelmed with options.  It will cut through the fog of indecision.  

In the context of starting a business, your Why will narrow down your options to 1.. maybe 2 things. 

Make sure everything in your life is in alignment with your Why.  I'll give you an example of how this has impacted my life. 

I LOVE making videos.  I started working with luxury hotels and traveling all around the world with my fiancee Alina, staying in the hotels and making videos in exchange. We even got sponsored to go to the Maldives for 2 weeks (all expenses paid).  The total trip was over $30,000.  We didn't pay one cent for the trip.  I actually proposed to Alina on this trip.  

But when I looked at my Why statement: 

To teach people how to learn and grow so that they can realize their full potential so that they can then help others reach theirs.

I wasn't doing anything to leave this world in a better place.  I was creating videos for hotels to promote tourism.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I wasn't teaching anyone how to learn or realize their potential.  

I used my knowledge of marketing and rapid skill acquisition to learn how to do my hobby (videography) well enough to market my skills to get what I wanted.  Free luxury trips.  But after awhile, that wasn't fulfilling at all because it wasn't in alignment with my Why. 

This article and website IS in alignment with my Why. 

I am building this website:  Freedom to Ascend to share EVERYTHING I know FOR FREE.  I love to write and create content. Eventually, I'll be creating videos to help teach what I know more effectively.   I love building systems and teams (and I've already created a powerful team to help grow this website).

And I'm empowering people to learn what I've learned.  I feel fulfilled.  I will be paid VERY well for this because I'm providing a massive value.  

Now it's your turn. 

Take the first step and find your Why. 

I'd love to hear what that is. If you know your Why or discover it using anything you've learned, leave me a comment and let me know what your Why is.

Last Updated on August 13, 2021 by Hanson Cheng

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Hanson Cheng

About the author

Living in Bali with my Fiancee and puppy, (Alina and Pickles). Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter. Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

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