What’s Your Why?


This website doesn’t get many visitors, and the visits it does get, are usually from people wanting to know a little more about who I am.

Many years ago, when I was busy ‘doing’, I used to attend these business networking breakfasts. Meeting new people, and also of course discovering new opportunities for ‘value exchange’. When meeting new people, the typical first question I got what was “what do you do?”. For most people, it was a fairly simple answer – they’d respond with their job/work/role/business. I could never answer that question, because I was always ‘doing’ so many things. Multipotentialite. And what I was doing was always changing. It was never the same answer, which was difficult for people wanting to ‘know’ me.

So I decided to ask a different question. When I met new people, instead of asking them what they did, I used to ask them to not tell me what they did, but why they did what they did. Way more interesting! But it turns out most people don’t know why they did what they did. And when asked, often resorted to the ‘for the money’ answer. Very few people had a ‘why’ that connected to their passion or a deeper purpose, or calling. It also turned out that my own ‘why’ was fairly consistent, even though the ‘what and the how’ were often unpredictable.

And – it turns out that a person’s why tells you all kinds of things about that person, about what matters to them, what motivates them, about what they are struggling with and commited to.

As a child, my ‘why’ question was an interminable source of frustration for my parents and teachers. Because it never had an actual final answer. Every answer to one why question, was followed by another ‘yes, but why?’ 🙂

So the ‘why’ has always fascinated me. Way more than the ‘what’, or even the ‘how’ – although the how is also super interesting – especially with a gifted brain – when looking at how most people are going about trying to achieve their ‘why’..

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the ‘why’ is really about values. And it turns out that our values, are pretty much why we do anything, why we care, and why we don’t. It’s said that we don’t have values, but that we ‘are’ our values. Values drive thinking and decision making. We see through our values. And this is what has been a constant in my life – the exploration and examination of ‘the why’. How I’ve examined that has changed drastically over the years, as has my understanding of it.

These days, it’s got to the point where I’m not really too interested in what people do, or think – but way more interested in ‘why’ they do and think what they do. Thier values. And, it turns out – that a person’s values are the root cause of both all of their struggles, and also, of their happiness. Because a person’s values are basically how they see the world – both what they see (and don’t) and also how they prioritise those ‘beliefs’ about the world and themselves – which is basically what values are – beliefs with an emotional ‘importance’ rating attached to them. This is what enables a person to resolve conflicts – the ability to prioritise one belief over another, in various contexts. It allows the formation of a value hierarchy.

And – it turns out – that a person’s value hierarchy – forms a critical foundation for their identity, and how they see the world. And fascinatingly, it also turns out – that the way to change your life, is to re-organise (or sometimes simply become aware of and accept) your personal hierarchy of value. Not so much your actual values – but the ‘way’ you value – which requires an understanding of axiology – or the kinds of valuing that are possible, the different ways of valuing, and how they are stacked in your own hierarchy of value, and your values.

And it turns out – this is what happiness is really all about. And this is my ‘why’. Helping people move from confusion to clarity, from struggle and ease, from hard to easy, from disillusioned to passionate and engaged. In essence, from unhappiness to happiness.

Usually that starts on the personal level – usually about self-image, personal relationships, and work. And once the personal level is good (functional and stable) the work moves into the transpersonal, into things like meaning and purpose. Something bigger than your self; a belonging – your place in the world, as it were.

And we do this, by surfacing a person’s hierarchy of value, and then consciously examining what it represents, and why those things matter. And then either accepting or changing, depending on what the person wants to experience in their life, work and relationships.

There’s really only one tool we can use for that – which allows us to manage and work with the hierarchy of value – the Hartman Value Profile. And that’s pretty much the most effective coaching tool out there.

For me personally – I’m currently developing a way of working specifically with gifted individuals. Partly because I am gifted myself, and also, partly because although suffering is painful for everyone, a gifted individual who is not able to express their gifts in the world, for the benefit of others – is perhaps one of the most tragic losses – both the absence of the gift in the world, and the suffering of the individual caused by an inability to self-actualise and self-realise.

So that’s why I do what I do. Helping to alleviate the struggles and suffering of the gifted individual, by facilitating their self-actualisation, through the conscious reorganising of their hierarchy of value, using the Hartman Value Profile, within a coaching context.

What’s your why?