Famous psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl once wrote, “He who has a why can bear any how.”
The how are the strategies for getting the work done, achieving your goals—but without knowing the driving reason behind it, you’ll be hard pressed to stay on track, no matter how great those strategies are. Think of the “how” as the engine—it will make movement happen and get you forward; the “why” is the fuel.
meQuilibrium’s Chief Science Officer, a leading expert on resilience, Andrew Shatté, PhD, describes the “why” in terms of four levels:
Level 1: Individual goals. At this basic level, you’re concerned mainly with what you have and achieve, be it a certain amount of money or standard of living, a specific job or goal, for none other than the pleasure and satisfaction it creates for you and you alone.
Level 2: Family. This takes your why a step beyond yourself to include the people closest to you. If your motivation includes doing more for your family, or setting an example for your children, then you function at this level.
Level 3: Community. You are driven not just by your own achievements or the wellbeing of your family, but by the world around you, be it the city or town in which you live to the global community.
Level 4: Religion, spirituality, values. If you feel connected to something larger than yourself, you’re driven by the very highest level of achievement, greater than the people around you, whether that means God, spirituality, or a set of values you live by. In short, something that will outlast and outlive you.
The higher the level, the greater your resilience.
With each step up in the connection, you’re more resilient—not to mention, more satisfied. Each subsequent level strives for more and deeper reach, and it’s that higher purpose that gives you the power to withstand anything. As we like to say, the bigger the boat, the less likely it is to capsize.
By aligning your efforts with something bigger than yourself or your own achievements, you infuse your efforts with passion and purpose.
Let’s look at volunteering as an example.
Sure, you can do it once a week to pad your resume. You can do it to serve as a good example for your kids. But if you can approach the task from a place of compassion, and recognize your contribution as something greater, as standing for more, you’ll derive greater satisfaction and reward from it—and likely feel that much more committed. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook when you think it doesn’t matter, but not when you know being there makes a difference to your community—and even more so when you believe you’re living your values.
Do some soul searching
Ask yourself how you might connect with a cause on all four levels:
- Level 1: How do you define success? What short- and long-term goals do you have for yourself? What do you wish for yourself to achieve and to experience?
- Level 2: How does your family inspire you? What do they depend on you to do or be? What goals do you have for you family? What can help you and your loved ones to realize these goals?
- Level 3: What are your hopes for your community? How do you define community—as your circle of family and friends or a group as large as your country (or even humanity)? What sort of change or progress do you wish for this group? Is there a problem this community faces that you are inspired to fix? How can you make your world a better place?
- Level 4: What are the ideals you strive to live up to? What are the core principals you want to live by? How can you make these more present in your everyday actions?
Identifying these purposes requires some deep thought and maybe even some soul-searching. The power that real purpose brings to any effort makes it all worthwhile. So take the time to identify how you connect with something greater than yourself, and prepare for the power you will wield when you tap into that intention.