Regardless of whether or not you are a resolution-setter, the beginning of this new year and new decade is an opportune time to reflect on who you are. Doing a deep dive into what makes you you — what inspires you, what you want out of life, what holds you back — will set you up to create a life that fulfills you. This exploration will help you clarify your why in life.

Many of us live life on auto-pilot. We follow the prescribed path, checking off the boxes of life — school, job, marriage, house. We are so inundated by the predetermined life track that few of us look inward to see if it’s right for us. Are we fulfilled? Do we derive meaning from our everyday life? Or are we going through the motions, daydreaming about the life we aren’t living?

I have nothing against education, work, marriage, homeownership. In fact, I checked each of these boxes myself. Many of us truly want what these represent. We want a meaningful career, we want intimate connection, we want a place that serves as our oasis. But disconnection from our why can lead to time wasted at guessing what will fulfill us. 

I know this all too well. I spent my twenties trying out different jobs, hoping to find something that inspired me past the initial three weeks when everything was new and challenging. With every job, the shine eventually wore off, and I began to dread the monotony it became. I was living life on accident, guessing at what would light me up, but not truly knowing. 

Looking back, I realize I was actively pursuing fulfillment in only one area of my life. With all of my focus on finding the right work, I was disconnected from other vital parts of who I am. When I spent time to figure out my why, things shifted. I didn’t have to reinvent my life (nor continue the pursuit for the perfect job) — I simply needed to understand me. As simple as it sounds, a deeper awareness simultaneously brought contentment and motivation.

Does any of that resonate with you? If so, know that you are not alone. And better yet, you hold the answers you need to move forward. When you know what you want out of life and why you want it, you uncover the means to a life that inspires and engages you. You tap into your purpose.

Here are some questions to reflect on as you begin uncovering your why:

What makes you you?

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your values?
  • What accomplishments/life experiences are you proud of? And why? What do they mean to you?
  • What do you lose track of time doing?

What do you want out of life?

  • What do you want your life to look like in five years? (let your imagination run wild – money and current circumstances are not obstacles in this exercise)
  • How do you want to feel in your day to day life? (fulfilled, passionate, adventurous, fun, desired, free of self doubt)
  • What do you want to be doing? (seeking adventure, making money doing what you love, traveling, writing a book, starting a family, running your own business, working for your idol, dating the love or loves of your life)
  • What do you want to improve, or start doing? (I want to be a better listener, I want to be more present when spending time with loved ones, I want to learn to dance, I want to run a marathon)

What holds you back from your dreams?

  • What are the fears, doubts, worries that come up and make you think, “I can’t do that?” (lack of money, fear of failure, fear of change) *Though maybe not as fun to think about, this is important to understand. When you can prepare yourself for future roadblocks and strategize ways to overcome them, your ability to succeed at what you are trying to achieve greatly increases.

Please keep in mind that this is not an instant process. This exploration takes time and thought, so be patient with yourself and the journey.

After you gain clarity around who you are and what you want out of life (your why), keep this centered in your thoughts. It will help you act intentionally in ways that resonate with you and keep you grounded.

When you are ready to go even farther, create action steps towards your dreams. Plan your goals in ways that utilize your strengths and values — this will fully engage you in pursuing your aspirations. Most importantly, have fun with this. Enjoy the opportunity to see yourself in a new way! Get curious about who you are and what motivates you. For your why is your compass to fulfillment.