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How to find your why... on purpose

If ever you’ve longed to find out why you’re here—your purpose, your big mission—this blog is for you!

This blog is it. Your silver bullet. The answer you’ve been seeking for years. Read on to discover the 5 steps you need to take to find the answers to your deepest questions, all in 30 minutes and while surfing Facebook and LinkedIn. Without this blog, you’ll be doomed to a hollow life. We all know that if you don’t have a “why”—a purpose or a mission to save the world—you’re in the sad minority. Without a why, your whole life will be a failure, a stumbling mess falling from one idea to the next without ever achieving enlightenment. It’s like driving your car down the highway of life with an empty gas tank, slowly limping toward retirement and your final destination...

...actually, that’s a blatant lie.

If you’re like me, you’re probably bored, overloaded, and fed up with gurus on your social media feeds promising to help you “find your why.” You know the ones: all the online courses, blogs, and training programs with intros like the one you just read that hook you by claiming they alone possess the deeply personal answers to life’s biggest questions.

Let me set your mind at ease: You will most likely not discover your life’s purpose by reading this blog.

What this blog will give you is the benefit of my real-world experience as an entrepreneur, father, husband, and coach, as well as some simple tools that will help you get started on the journey to an energizing life that brings you joy.

Why You Don’t Need a “Why”

Truth is, everyone’s process is different—and that’s okay. Accepting that you’ve yet to reach a place where you can connect the dots of who you are and why you’re here is okay, too. That’s called being human. Take the pressure off yourself; these things take time, questions, and, more often than not, another human to help elicit your truth from deep within you.

There was a time not so long ago when I was downloading every piece of “self-help” content known to man to help me “find myself”; my “purpose”; my “why.” I was gorging like a starved carnivore on all the meaty content served up by anyone and everyone.

Why? Because they had The Answer. All I had to do was keep reading, listening, and learning. I was insatiable. Yet the more I consumed, the emptier I felt.

All this whilst surrounded by several businesses I’d started in the publishing space. I had my fingers in every pie. I had newspapers, magazines, an online TV channel, plus national campaigns to promote the industry I worked in: general aviation, something I had zero interest in apart from the opportunity to build a business empire, earn cash, and feel like I’d “made it.” I lost count of the hats I wore on a daily basis, attempting to work as director, head of sales, HR director, manager, debt chaser, credit manager, finance director, bookkeeper, and cleaner at once. I did everything.

It wasn’t all bad; I learned a huge amount from success and failure, because I had both in abundance. Growing to a team of 25 people and having bases in the UK, USA, and Germany was an amazing rollercoaster of a journey—problem is, I’ve never liked roller coasters.

I was overwhelmed, drowning in self-help this and self-help that, and, honestly, none the wiser for it.

Then my son was born, and everything changed.

It had taken four years for my wife and I to have a child. Three miscarriages. Which, with hindsight, I’m sure were linked to the stress we were both under with my businesses becoming bigger than my life. I’d never felt pain like I did after those losses.

I knew one thing for sure: Now that my son was born, my life had to take a different path.

There was more to life than my businesses. I had allowed myself to be consumed by them and it was costing me my health, my relationships, and very nearly my house.

Then I found a coach who took me through the process of getting clearer about what I wanted from my life.

Everything changed—again.

You see, I had been searching for answers on my own. I was so lonely. And scared.

Having someone else to support my search for meaning stopped my process of trying to look at my own head without a mirror (if you’ve never tried doing that, it’s impossible).

Suddenly, I had this highly-skilled person asking big questions with lots of care. These were the same questions I’d read in the self-help worksheets I’d been downloading for years, but the human experience of opening up to someone who wasn’t judging me felt enlightening. I didn’t feel alone anymore.

It was okay for me to dream bigger than I’d ever dreamed. It was okay to get clear on my values and live my life with intention. It was okay to be the person I really wanted to be, instead of the person I had storified from my past.

I felt liberated. I felt me. I felt empowered, alive, and energized. My mojo “came back” (in fact it had never truly disappeared, but rather been buried beneath mounds of self-induced overwhelm).

I realized through working with several coaches that this little voice inside—one that I’d had for years and years; a whispering, gentle voice—had been locked away, drowned out by the noise of me chasing success. This little voice was being shouted down by my inner-achiever, who was trying to prove himself in the business world. This same little voice had always wanted to create a business that helped serve other people.

I’d been coaching in one form or another since my early teens, starting with sports and later (as I worked my way up into management positions inside corporate publishing businesses) graduating to coaching and mentoring my teams—not to mention continually helping friends and family with advice and support. This was in me. I loved personal development, self-help, and learning, and had an appetite to seek out ways to become better and to help others.

So when I finally started connecting to that little voice, I chose to change my career and do some good in the world. That’s when I became a business coach. I started working with people and businesses that I already knew, and realized that I wanted to align myself with a philosophy that resonated with me—so I applied to become an EMyth Coach. I knew how selective EMyth is in its hiring process, and that the in-depth training would be intense—fortunately, I made it. It took a lot of hard work, learning, growing, and discomfort—another huge journey—but because it was aligned with what energized and fulfilled me, I kept going. There’s nothing like coaching, and I absolutely love being a catalyst in changing people’s lives. I get to combine my real-world experience with a huge passion of mine, and it makes me feel alive.

The Power of “Simple”

If I boil it down to really simple terms, the changes in my life came down to me being authentic and vulnerable.

Authentic enough to sit with questions such as: What do I want? Who do I want to be? How do I want to live? What gives me energy? And not only to sit with these questions, but also to hold them with an open hand and let the answers emerge over time, rather than trying to force my truth to come out.

Vulnerable enough to ask for help and realize I don’t have all the answers. I had (and have) the pleasure of working with some amazing coaches who see things I can’t see and help me understand how I’m holding myself back from my best self and from creating the life I want to live.

I’m now the person who gives people the gift of being who they want to be through coaching.

People like Andy.

Andy was a client of mine, and he was working over 80 hours a week. He had three children, two of them under the age of five. He was waking up and checking email; coming home and checking email; working late into the night; ignoring his wife and children—in short, he was just like I used to be: tired, overwhelmed, and with his finger in every pie. He needed help.

Through our work together, we got crystal clear on what he wanted from life. And guess what? Andy wasn’t interested in climbing Everest or building a billion-dollar business; he wanted simple things:

Working fewer hours.
Playing football in the park with his children.
Reading them a bedtime story.
Going to the gym.
Having weekends away with his wife now and again.
Not working at home.

But all these simple things seemed out of reach. Why? Because, among other reasons, Andy brought in the most sales—the key clients would only work with him.

We worked on empowering his staff, and gently weaned his clients off of insisting that Andy handle all their business personally.

Once he started to let go, delegate, and take time away from checking emails, guess what Andy started doing?

Working fewer hours.
Playing football in the park with his children.
Reading them a bedtime story.
Going to the gym.
Having weekends away with his wife now and again.
Not working at home.

And his business started growing because he had empowered his team to deliver amazing work.

One of the wonderful ideas we cooked up was a reward chart, or star chart. (If you have young children, you may be familiar with these.) Andy’s little boy, Freddy, had one in the kitchen on the fridge. If he ate all his dinner, he got a star; earning enough stars in a row meant he would get a treat. There’s another name on Freddy’s chart now: “Daddy.” Daddy got a star if he didn’t check his emails at home. They gamified Andy’s process, using the chart to create a healthy habit. The result was no more emails at home and more life outside work. Nothing like the accountability of your young son to make you realize what’s important!

I’m giving you these examples because they’re simple. Far too often, people look for a life-changing statement that will solve all their problems and frustrations. Sometimes it even works. But for most, small and simple steps taken consistently lead to far bigger gains over time.

Taking a different example: You wouldn’t walk into a personal training session and say, “Tell me what I need to do in one session to lose 35 pounds, get a six-pack, and be able to run 10k in under 50 minutes,” would you? Achieving health and fitness goals takes consistent effort over time. You might need to consume fewer carbs, exercise for three hours per week, drink less beer or wine, or eat fewer desserts; all simple things done well over time. Creating a life that energizes and fulfills you is the same.

Here are some simple “baby step” processes that you can do right now. All you need is something to write with. Simple. (And remember, don’t try to be perfect.)

Find What Fuels You

Make a list of all the things in your life that give you energy—the things that light you up and give you that “hell yeah” feeling.

Then make a list of all the things that suck energy out of you.

Now, aim to increase the time spent each week on things that give you energy, and reduce the time spent on things that take it away.

If the list isn’t very big, that’s okay—this isn’t a competition. Sit with the question. Create a note in your phone, and whenever something happens that gives you true energy, that feels alive for you, take note and add it to the list. Do the same for the things that take energy away from you.

Let Your Values Be Your Guide

What values do you want to live your life by? Notice I didn’t ask what values you currently live by; you’re creating the life you want, not the one you’ve already got.

This is your time to dream. To live in the land of possibility. You get to choose.

Maybe you want to have more fun. Be more authentic. Connect with people. Be healthier than you’ve ever been.

Once you have a list of your top values, write down exactly what they mean to you, in detail. For example, if you value “fun” you might write:

I am the person who brings fun and joy into the lives of people I meet. I laugh every day. I create experiences in life that make me smile. I dance and sing even when it feels silly, because it’s fun. I smile first when I meet someone because it feels good. I’m here for a good time.

These values are your compass to help you take the right turns in life. Having a set of personal values that move you deeply gives you the freedom to live a life of integrity with yourself. You’ll feel more relaxed, more connected to what’s important to you, and more alive. Living with intention and through the filter of your values makes you feel great about yourself. This will also help you start to become clearer about the kind of behaviors and values you want to express through your business—making it even more aligned with what drives you and creating uniqueness in your marketplace at the same time.

Chart a Course for Your Best Life

I have to thank a couple of clients of mine, Brian and Frank, for introducing me to this process many years ago (thanks, guys!)—write a letter to yourself for the 1st of January next year, in the present tense. Describe in vivid detail how you want the rest of this year to pan out. For example:

Dear {insert your first name},

Wow. What an amazing year! I’m sitting here toasting a glass of beautiful red wine, looking back over the last few months—and it feels good. The highlights include {insert specific ways you’ve lived your life, the values you’ve lived by, your health, relationships, adventures, business success—everything—write it longhand and hold nothing back}.


{Insert your name}

This letter will help you get clear on what matters to you. It’s okay if it’s a simple letter; it’s between you and you and nobody else. When you read it, let yourself really feel the emotions it creates. If you’re excited and scared at the same time, congratulations—you’re on the right path! The letter and the life you describe in it should give you energy and make you feel like you’re connecting with something that’s been waiting to emerge for a long time.

It’s Okay Not to Have All the Answers

When you’re going through these exercises, be okay with “blankness”—it can take time for answers to emerge. Life loves a vacuum. By starting to dream about what you want and ask these personal questions with intention, you’ll find that the answers surface on their own.

There is no quick fix, no magic pill, and no silver bullet. Go easy on yourself, don’t judge, and allow time for change to set in. Better to do one thing you know you love doing than 30 self-imposed expectations that only eat away your time.

Those things will not fill the hole.

Why? Because you can never have enough of what you don’t need. In my case, I thought I needed to keep chasing and chasing success by creating a business that had one sole purpose—to make money. That was what I wanted at the time, but not what I needed. I needed to create a business that was aligned with what I love; a business that energized me; a business that helped give me more.

Becoming clear on your values, your purpose, your why—your whatever—will also enable you to be far more intentional in creating your business. You’ll know, deep down inside, that the business represents what matters to you. It won’t even feel like work: It will feel far more purposeful and wholesome, and that will help you go the extra mile when things get challenging.

One of my favorite quotes is from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” The steps in this blog post will help guide you on where and how to start.

Enjoy the ride. It’s your life—now take it back.

David Foster

Written by David Foster

David is an EMyth Coach, Coach Mentor, Author, workshop facilitator, and speaker. He has a unique background as both a successful entrepreneur and a high-level coach. He is an expert at cutting through the chaos to bring clarity, vision, strategy and accountability. Unlike most business coaches and consultants, he's not afraid to share his successes or his struggles. All business owners have them, few discuss them so openly and authentically. If you're frustrated with the challenges that trying to get to the next level in your business can bring—or you want to craft a powerful vision for what's comes next—he's the right person to speak to. Schedule a conversation with David to get back to being the leader you always wanted to be. Learn more about David and schedule a free session with him here.