Six Key Questions to Help You Clarify Your WHY

By Chris Olsen

For some, the process of fully discovering their WHY takes longer than a few days, weeks or months—it took me nearly two decades. It requires delving into your past to reveal what got you where you are today as well as some self-reflection about what keeps you moving forward every day, despite the obstacles and challenges of small business ownership.

If you’ve been considering your purpose and struggling to pinpoint it, here are some key questions that can help you get “unstuck” and clarify your WHY:

Where are you donating your time, money and/or talent?

A desire to help others, and how you choose to do so, is usually connected to your WHY. What causes do you feel most passionate about contributing to? Does your business have a direct connection to those causes? How so?

What do you truly love doing?

Many skills are required to operate a successful business. But if you had to choose one thing you love most about your work, what would it be? Think about how the thing you love doing most connects to your purpose.

What do others say are your unique gifts?

It can be tricky to pinpoint the things you are really good at, especially if there are many things you do well and love to do. The things you’re good at can also be so deeply ingrained in the way you live your everyday life that you simply don’t think about them as gifts. Ask your significant other or best friend what your greatest gift is—it may be revealing. And then think about whether that gift shows up in your business and how.

Who do you surround yourself with?

As the saying goes—birds of a feather flock together. Think about the people you naturally want to spend time with—those who inspire and encourage you, whose presence you truly enjoy. There is probably something that connects you with that person or people that relates to your WHY. For example, many of my best friends are feminists who are devoted to equal rights for all. Equality is directly connected to my WHY.

What do you talk about at dinner parties and on social media?

I’m not referring to political debates with family members here. But during the meals you’ve shared with friends whose views are closely aligned with your own—what do you discuss? Scroll through your social media. What kind of thoughts do you share frequently—both those that are your own, and those that are others that you repost? This can reveal some great insights about your WHY.

What injustices really bother you?

Is there something that evokes an emotional reaction whenever you see or hear about it? For example, Shiza Shahid is the founder of the Malala Fund. Her story evoked intense sadness and anger for me. Shiza grew up in Pakistan. The Taliban invaded her city and bombed thousands of girls’ schools because of a fundamental belief that only boys should receive an education. These injustices infuriate me because I value equality and education, which are both a big part of my WHY.

If you need additional support, my book, “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose” is a great resource. My Founder Story also offers Whyography Workshops that take female founders like you through the process of fully discovering your WHY and developing your Whyography—a powerful short story designed to articulate and elevate your purpose.

About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose.” Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.

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