If you’ve attended any business seminar, coaching session, or entrepreneurship training in the last few years, at some point someone would have asked you “Why?” Why are you in business? Why are you an entrepreneur? Why are you doing what you do?
The sad reality is that most of us don’t have a ready answer to that question. In fact, even employees have difficulty explaining why they’re in the job they’re in. Far too often, we go through the motions, following other people’s advice about what we should be doing without taking the time to think seriously about why we’re doing it. Is it what we really want to do? Is it what we’ve been called to do? Do we feel a burning desire deep within our souls that can only be quenched by doing this particular thing?
The question of “Why” speaks to purpose. Being able to confidently give an answer about why you’re engaged in an activity usually means you’re aware of how that activity fits into your overall agenda. When you understand your purpose, you’re able to focus on what matters, on what adds value. When you understand your purpose, you’re able to face challenges and obstacles with resolve. When you understand your purpose, you’re able to take calculated risks to be the change you want to see.
Your ‘Why’ is your purpose.
To understand how purpose can give you precision, motivation, and determination, consider the following scenario. A couple friends ask you to play a game with them. No problem. You ask, “How do you play the game?” The reply is: “No rules, we make it up as we go along.” Ok, a little shaky, but you’re willing to work with it. So you ask another question: “What’s the aim of the game?” The reply this time: “Don’t worry about it. Just have fun.” At this point you’re probably thinking this isn’t worth your time because you don’t know what to do, what you’re aiming for, or even how to go about…well, anything. There’s no direction, no purpose, no particular end result in mind. Under those circumstances it’s a bit difficult to have fun.
Bring that over to business and life. What are the rules? What’s the point? These are philosophical questions which require more than a cursory response. Can you readily answer the questions? As a small business owner, can you clearly state why you are in the business you’re in, or why you are in business in the first place?
Follow these steps to find the answers.
Revisit your story.
At the core of your business venture is a story. It’s the story of how you ended up doing what you’re currently doing. In that story, at its very heart, is your reason for getting into business, for trading sleep and comfort to go after your dreams.
Explore your story.
As you evaluate the reasons you got into business, you’ll find yourself exploring two distinct concepts. The first is your own dreams, desires, and goals in life. The second is about other people. Regardless of what type of business you’re in, whether product based or service based, a lot of what you do is going to be about meeting the needs of other people. Think about your ideas and beliefs about each category.
Redefine your story.
Very often when business owners are asked why they’re in business, the focus is either on their desires, their product or service, or the customer’s desires. This is where revisiting and exploring your story would lead you first. Further exploration, however, would uncover the underlying truth behind your story. There is some inherent, fundamental belief that is motivating your choices and your actions. That axiom is your ‘Why.’
Your ‘why’ is seldom at the starting point of the discussion, and it’s never about your product or service, or even your immediate customers. All of these are means to accomplish that end result your gut is aiming for. Maybe you believe that everyone deserves to indulge now and again in order to be truly happy. Or maybe you believe that when people are healthy they are better people, thus healthy people equals a better world. Whatever the belief, there is where you’ll find your ‘why.’
So take a moment, or a few, and look beyond the obvious reasons you’re in business. Find out what your purpose is. Find out the cause to which you’ve committed your time and energy. And then you will discover your real-life superpower.
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Shelley-Ann Edwards-Barran is a writer, editor, writing coach, speaker, and advocate for better writing instruction. She is the CEO of WERD Coach Ltd., a company dedicated to helping writers at many levels – children, academics, authors.