The 3 Things That Lead to Your ‘Why’ by Mike Merriam

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”

– Henry David Thoreau

All the studies show this quote to be true. 7 out of 10 people don’t like going to work.  8 out of 10 people say they don’t find meaning in their work.

Not long ago I was a member of this unhappy, unfulfilled, and disengaged majority. One day I watched a TED Talk by Scott Dinsmore called “How to Find Work You Love.” Scott talked about finding the work that you can’t not do. In other words, finding work that you absolutely must do.

I should tell you that at the time I watched this talk, I was deeply engrained in a highly successful career but was becoming increasingly unhappy and unfulfilled. This push from Scott was what I needed to give myself permission to start looking for another way.

I went on a journey of personal development. I read books on finding purpose and discovering my why. I hired coaches, joined mastermind groups, and attended live events all over the country, all in an effort to design a new future for myself and my family. A future where I was deeply fulfilled, and doing work that felt meaningful.

As a side-effect of all the personal growth that I was experiencing, I became more disenfranchised than ever in my job as a mortgage banker. In fact, I went through a mini-meltdown. A crisis of purpose. I filled the void caused by a lack of meaning in my work with unhealthy food and alcohol. I started damaging professional relationships, and before I knew it, my business was suffering, my personal life was suffering, and I was lost.

I knew something had to be done, and fast. So I took out my journal and committed to writing out a new life plan. I remembered a quote by Tony Robbins that said “Living in alignment with your values is the ultimate success.”

So… I wrote the word “Values” down on top of the page, and tried to list my top 5 core values.

Guess what…. I couldn’t do it. I had literally no idea what I valued most in life, or at the very least, how to clearly articulate it. This bothered me. How could I not know my own core values? I was determined to discover them.

I started asking myself some basic questions. Questions like:

  • Who am I (what roles do I play in life)?
  • What do I do?
  • Who do I do it for?
  • What do they need?
  • What do I get out of this?

These questions led me to have positive conversations (with myself), and eventually led me to a clearly defined list of my top 5 core values.

The questions I asked myself and the process of journaling the answers was so powerful, that I decided to carry this exercise on and discover my Unique Character Strengths. Those character traits that lead me to successful outcomes nearly every time I deploy them. Again, I asked more positively framed questions, more positive conversations, and more breakthrough discovery emerged.

This process carried on for a few weeks, and when I was done, I had created complete lists of my Core Values, my Unique Character Strengths, and my Highest Priorities & Motivations. I called this my “Positive Core Map.”

POSITIVE CORE = Core Values, Unique Strengths, Highest Priorities

Now the question was… what do I do with this information?

I thought back to why I started this whole thing in the first place. I was miserable in my job as a mortgage banker. The work I was doing was deeply unfulfilling. The only reward for doing it was money, and that wasn’t enough for me.

So…. equipped with my newly mapped Positive Core, I went a quest to discover my Why and my Purpose. I was seeing these buzzwords all over the place. Everyone online marketer, coach, and social media influencer….all writing and talking about “finding your Why or your Purpose.” I was determined to find mine!

Fast forward to today, eighteen months later, and I’ve discovered a major secret.

It turns out, my Why and my Purpose, weren’t out there hiding. They weren’t waiting to be discovered, ready to lead me to a life of unlimited happiness and fulfillment.

I’m going to share another secret with you. Your Why and Your Purpose aren’t out there either. Let’s talk about what and where these misunderstood, elusive, and massively important things actually are.

What you call your Why or your Purpose, are actually already within you. They are simply the full expression of your Positive Core.

All this time I had been looking for them, and it turned out I had them all along….my Why and my Purpose were nothing more than my Positive Core in action.

Let’s back up so I can explain what I mean by this.

Speaking in definitive terms, your Why and Purpose, can be both explained simply as the reasons you do the things you do. Your highest priorities and motivations.

The difference between the two being, your Why is what motivates your actions while your Purpose represents the hope that surrounds the desired outcomes of those actions. This is another way of saying that when you act in alignment with your highest priorities and motivations, you are encouraged with the hope that you will achieve meaningful, purposeful outcomes. That you will experience rich fulfillment.

In other words, you will achieve self-actualization. This is another way of saying, you will frequently experience that which causes you to most naturally come alive. Life-giving emotions.

When your actions come into alignment your Positive Core, all your foundational human needs are instantly satisfied in positive ways.

These needs are:

Certainty – Knowing that what you value will remain unchanged

Hope – The opportunity for a better future

Connection – Aligning with other people, friendships, and love

Significance – Finding ways to make your life matter

It’s important to understand here, that these foundational human needs will always be satisfied. Our brains are wired in ways that ensure we will have Certainty, Hope, Connection, and Significance, one way or another. Many people will unconsciously meet one or more of these needs with negative actions, or actions that are self-sabotaging.

Satisfying these foundational human needs with positive actions, that align perfectly with your positive core, allows you to shift focus (both consciously and unconsciously) to your elevating human needs, which are:

Growth – Learning and meaning making

Contribution – Making a difference in the world, with one person, or with a community of people

When these elevating human needs are satisfied, you become what’s called Self-Actualized.

Self-Actualization is pre-requisite to living a life of happiness and fulfillment. It is at the foundation of meaning and purpose. This is the secret to life.

Now the question becomes…. What do you do with this information? It’s simple….

You must Unleash your Positive Core in the world. You have to literally become the Fullest Expression of your Core Values, Unique Strengths, & Highest Priorities. This is literally the WHY you’ve been looking for.

To simplify,

  • Mapping Your Positive Core = Discovering Your Core Values, Unique Strengths, & Highest Priorities.
  • Your Why = Fully Expressing Your Positive Core (actions align with your values, strengths, & priorities)
  • Your Purpose = Self-Actualization (Focus on personal growth and contribution to the world)

To get started with Your Why and Your Purpose today, answer the following questions to begin mapping your Positive Core.

  1. CORE VALUES – (Answer the following questions in your journal)
    1. Who am I (list the roles you play in life)?
    2. What do I do?
    3. Who do I do it for?
    4. What do they need?
    5. What do I get out of this?
    6. What personal qualities am I most proud of?
    7. How do I build and maintain relationships?
    8. What are my moral absolutes?
    9. How do I distinguish right from wrong?
  2. UNIQUE STRENGTHS – (Answer the following questions in your journal)
    1. What are some challenges I’ve faced in my life and how did I overcome them?
    2. What do I like about myself?
    3. What do people compliment me on?
    4. What do I enjoy doing?
    5. What am I proud of?
  3. HIGHEST PRIORITIES/MOTIVATIONS – (Answer the following questions in your journal)
    1. What is important for me to have in life?
    2. Why is this important?
    3. What is important for me to do in life?
    4. Why is this important?
    5. Who is important for me to have in my life (which people or types of people)
    6. What is important for me to do for them?
    7. How will they be affected by what I do?
    8. What images of the future cause me to most naturally come alive or excite me?
    9. What emotions will I feel when I achieve my priorities?
    10. Are there opportunities to feel these emotions today, using what I already have, that will allow me to leverage more satisfaction?
    11. How will my day to day life be different when I achieve this?

For more resources including access to the Full Version of the Positive Core Map and the World’s Leading Strength Finder Survey, please visit my website here:

Get my book, Closer Than You Think: Six Fundamental Questions to Ignite Your Personal Evolution here: