Light moves in mysterious ways. A single beam of light can do a million different things depending on what it reflects through or onto. If you shine a ray of light into a crystal, you can see rainbows on the wall. Shine light onto a mirror, and you can project the beam into a dark corner. Tilt a prism just right, and you get one solid ray of rainbow colors. Focus a single laser beam just right, and you can slice steel.
Rediscovering the why in your business is like honing the laser to a razor point that’s sharp enough to cut through metal. The why isn’t just the reason you do what you do, it’s the consistent reminder that keeps you grounded, energized and focused. It’s your cause, your purpose, your motive and your proof. The why is the core belief in what you do.
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That kind of energy lets you see clearly when you have to decide whether to take risks, need to stay engaged in the activities that matter most and choose the right people to partner with. Here are seven factors to consider.
1. Why do we lose the why?
The why is often lost in the daily grind of nit-picky issues and humdrum operations. Shiny objects come along to distract us, a fleeting rainbow catches our eye and makes us question the color choice for our logo and repetitions grind us down, until we wake up one day and can’t quite remember why we started this whole thing in the first place. That’s when we need to get back to the basic why and recharge.
2. What’s the point, anyway?
Sometimes people just stumble into their work, but most of the time there was some kind of impetus that got us geared up enough to kick-start something. There was a spark that led us to turn that singular idea into an actual first step, an inspiration strong enough to make us want to extend a sprint into a committed marathon. The why is what made us get started.
3. Isn’t it all just about money?
Chances are, that first bright spark wasn’t just about the money. Obviously, money is great — more money can open doors and pay for nicer shoes, trips, boats or your kids’ education. Money may be part of your why, but I hope it’s not the only part. Then again, for some people, money means more than just having more — it represents financial independence, relief from debt and the ability to live anywhere and any way you want to. In that case, money isn’t really your why — freedom is.
Related: Profit's Not the Only Thing. Businesses Driven By Values Succeed in the Long Run.
4. A why can be about changing the world.
People go to work every day to earn a living, but many of us also work to be part of something bigger, better, newer or more helpful than what existed before. We want to make something superior that will change the world a little or a lot. We want to help people and introduce them to a better way to live.
5. The why is stronger than the reasons to quit.
There are plenty of reasons not to go into business for yourself. It’s risky. You might get caught up in debt. You could bruise your reputation. You might even lose everything. Most people who have an entrepreneurial glint also have a unique vision of how they want to do things, and they haven’t found anything that executes that same vision. Some of us just need to build things for the heck of it. Some of us are motivated to share a story or product that we genuinely believe will change people’s lives. Whatever that reason is, it was stronger than all the reasons not to begin something new, and it’s what you should always go back to if you start to feel lost.
6. Maybe the why is about what you can give the next generation.
Some families have members who do the same jobs generation after generation, whether it’s a string of plumbers, preachers or military servants. Those legacies are incredibly meaningful for most families and keep them connected, but there’s nothing quite like passing down a successful business to the next generation. Sharing a business is something you can do together, and it’s something everyone can be proud of.
7. Why? Because I’ll never, ever be bored again.
Sometimes, we just want to start something from the ground up, because there is no challenge like it. When things are first getting off the ground, entrepreneurs have to become experts in everything, from finance to marketing and everything in between. It’s an uphill climb like no other, and genuine entrepreneurs thrive on the drive required to crest that hill. Whatever the longest, worst day throws at you, it’s never, ever going to be dull.
Related: 3 Tips for Building a Business That Reflects Your Deepest Values