Find your Great Big Why | Stop Planning-Just-Because; Start Dreaming on Purpose

By Kris Windley

So why did you start your creative work in the first place?

There are a lot of different answers to that question.

I know. I’ve heard em all.

I ask my clients this question all the time, and they give me a wide variety of answers: they lost their job, had kids or moved to a new city; they needed an outlet for their creativity, or they needed to pay for the supplies for their creative outlet (Hello, Briana! I’m looking at you kid).

I started focusing more on my creative work because of my health – and because my kids needed me to be more flexible and available to them.

Maybe you have a different “surface” reason for starting your business. There are a million different reasons to do it, but the real reason we all made this crazy leap is far more prevalent than we might originally guess. It’s downright typical, as a matter of fact.

We started our own business so we could have control.

Some of us more than others, perhaps. You might be raising your hand and singing “Yes, Kris!” at me right now, or you might be just nodding a thoughtful, “Hmm…maybe”.

But at the root of the whole thing, control is almost always the biggest initial factor.

  • Maybe you need to control the hours you are available to work,
  • or the place you work from,
  • or the number of hours you work every week,
  • or the kind of work you do,
  • or the people you do your work for…
  • or all of the above (that’d be me).

Whatever you choose from that list, I hear you. Creative and Service-based business owners have a lot in common. We have all realized at some point that this thing that’s happening right now is our life.

This is it, kitten.

And if we don’t take control over the things that are most important to us, we will miss out on the best parts. So we all took the leap and decided to create it all according to our own dreams, right?

It’s so amazing that we get to be architects for our own biz-castles. We get to imagine, design and build them. Then, we get to live in them every day. Who wouldn’t love that?

But we get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and needs of our lives – and our businesses – and we lose sight of our big dreams of an amazing castle of accomplishments.

The greatest freedoms in life come with even greater responsibilities.

That’s something my Dad often said to me while I was growing up. It’s also something I say all the time to my own kids – especially when they come home late and I’m about to ground them a little bit.

Apparently, Superman also says something like it “Don’t quote Superman at me when you are really just about to ground me, Mom!” It’s a good piece of advice. I stand by it.

It’s also super empowering for business goal setting.

You get this freedom to control the key pieces of your life, as a business owner. You also have the responsibility to yourself, and to your community, to make those design-choices with more than just your day-to-day life in mind.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”You have freedom to control your daily life. You also have the responsibility to make it count for more.” quote=”You have freedom to control your daily life. You also have the responsibility to make it count for more.”]

Some people call it legacy, some might call it your higher purpose. I call it your “Great Big Why”.

We have a lot of little reasons why, but the thing that matters most should be your Great Big Why.

I talked about this a bit, when I wrote about exploring your Signature Story a little while ago. It’s really the most important thing for you to identify before you begin your Brand and Business Planning for 2015.

Here’s what I want you to do this week:

I want you to conduct the Toddler Test to find out what your Great Big Why really is.

Get out your journal, kitten; It’s homework time!

  1. Ask yourself why you started your business or blog in the first place, and list all of those practical things that started the process. You can include “Pyjamas at work” as a key reason. I did.
  2. Then ask yourself what you love about your business or your writing life. This can be tricky, because sometimes we end up doing a lot of stuff to support our creative work that we don’t actually love. Pick the stuff that makes you sing and dance in your living room, and write those things down – even if it’s as simple as sending cute thank you notes to clients or writing in sticker-covered journals.
  3. Ask yourself why you love that stuff. Write it down.
  4. Then ask yourself why again. This is when the toddler part comes in; we never get the real answer on the first why; that’s why little kids don’t give up after you answer them once. Look at your first answer and ask yourself why you love that. Write down the answer to that too.
    For example: If I said I love meeting with my clients and talking about their dreams, I would dig deeper and say that their excitement about their businesses keeps me excited about my own, and that’s why I love talking to them.
  5. Now ask yourself why again. And write down that answer.
    For example: My next why would be that I need to have newness in my life to stay really excited about what I’m doing, and helping other women feel confident and excited in their businesses feels new and exciting to me every time.
  6. And again and again and again, like a toddler who really just wants to know why everything is anything. Ask yourself and write down the answer until you either pass out, or you hit a place that feels real and intimate and Great Big.
    For example: Seeing other women go from not believing their Voices are legitimate or important, to shouting their stories from the rooftops makes my own Voice feel stronger…and it could go on and on until…

That’s your Great Big Why.

Or it’s a huge, flashing arrow sign pointing at your Great Big Why. Explore it. Poke that bear until it turns around and roars at you.

It can be tough sometimes, and it can be painful to get into, but it is the single most important thing for you to know in order to keep pushing yourself through your biz-troubles when they feel bigger and badder than you – and to do the things that really matter to you.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Your Great-Big-Why is bigger and badder than the biggest and baddest biz-troubles you face. Use it.” quote=”Your Great-Big-Why is bigger and badder than the biggest and baddest biz-troubles you face. Use it.”]

I wrote a post about one of my Greatest Biggest Whys a while ago. I followed the Toddler Test, myself and this is where I ended up. I knew it was for real when I had tears hitting the keyboard.

That’s generally a good indicator of the Great-Bigness of your Why.

Now that you know the root of your Why, you can easily judge which goals and dreams need your attention most.

If a goal isn’t aligned with your GBW, or it doesn’t support you (this is where revenue comes into play for those of us with heart-based businesses) in doing other things that align with it? That goal either needs to be tweaked or tossed, kitten.

It’s wasting your Why, and that’s not cool.

Alright! That’s your homework. Go do it – really do it – and then come back here and join the conversation.

Why did you start your business? What are some of your smaller whys? What is your Great Big Why? Your Dreams? Your Goals for 2015? Tell us in the Comments Section below. I love hearing from you!

Share this post if you think it’ll help anyone you know, pick a Click to Tweet that sings to you and tweet it, pin it to your business board and tell all your friends!

And come back next week for another post in this series on Goal Setting, Dream Making and Overall Planning for 2015.

If you don’t want to miss a thing, sign up for Writing & Biz-Tips With a K and join the #30DaysWithaK free-writing challenge to find your Voice and a touch o’ writerly fun – in 30 days.

There are some amazing things a-bubbling away here, and I don’t want you to miss the Great Big Freebies I love to send out to the folks who have joined my community.

See you next week!

xo

Kris

KrisWithaK

Kris is a writer, editor, illustrator, teacher, mother of two amazing young ladies - and enthusiastic cat-belly snuggler. A certified teacher, long-time blogger and experienced brand consultant, she writes about Writing, Business and Blogging...and sometimes about Changing the World.

Comments

  1. Love the quote “You have freedom to control your daily life. You also have the responsibility to make it count for more.” and I am going to raise you that “You have the responsibility to control your daily life. You also have the freedom to make it count for more.”

    You’re a GD genius, Windley. Love you much.
    xo,
    rs

  2. This exercise appeared on my screen at just the rightest of times!!! I have been digging and searching and following some other step-by-step guidelines but it always somehow felt forced and fake. I thought that because travel has made me who I am today my travel-inspired drawings should aim to inspire wanderlust in viewers. But really it’s bigger than just travel, it’s about lifestyle and being happy with who we are!
    First of all I confess: your toddler test made me realize that I am using my surroundings and people around me as an excuse to not get on with things. That is a good healthy start.
    Another big realization is that I want to really succeed as a creative entrepreneur because it could help my friends and relatives and even so many other young women to realize that they can do it too! To live by example is a big one for me and I must must must succeed because of that!
    I also realized that I want to sell my art so that I can meet people with similar taste and style. Because I feel a bit lonely and isolated and have not seen a lot of stuff that resembles my work; and people who love my work enough to pay for it probably ‘get me’ like Jalene said. I want to know who those people are because they are awesome and have good taste. (I haven’t met any of my collectors yet because I haven’t sold anything so far):
    For me presentation is key, it’s how we define ourselves and thus attract people of similar mindset. I want to build a community of people who value presentation, who dig my style and whose definition of success is being able to do what they love & lead the lifestyle of their dreams. And because successful people are often busy, it’s easy to get sucked into major projects and get sidetracked and wake up five years later with bad health and grey hair.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is: I want my art to be the daily reminder on their walls of what is their Great Big Why.

  3. oh my – I have so much work to do, I love you for this. Truly. I need a kick in the behind, I’m starting to work on my Great Big Why and well, here we go…goal setting and measurable results and how and why are all part of my Christmas Plan this year, how did you know?? Thanks…stay tuned… Wendy xx

    • Hooray for planning, Wendy!!
      You guys are always doing awesome stuff at Front Porch Mercantile. I can’t wait to see what your 2015 will do! Come back and share!!
      xo
      K

  4. OMG you are a genius!
    I was going through all the why’s thinking, I’m not going to be able to get to my Great Big Why, then BOOM! there it was 😀

  5. Question #1 – EASY PEASY (flexible hours, no commuting, pick/choose clients that align with values, freedom to travel or live in different places, be on a closer level with clients by cutting out the middle man, variety of work, etc. – this is before I started adding a handmade aspect to my business, I was making wedding invitations for individuals and graphic design for small businesses)
    Question #2 – Surprisingly harder than expected – but I came up with 20
    Why Round 1 – Hard, but I came up with a “why” for each of the 20
    Why Round 2 – Oof! Harder but forced myself to answer the “why” for each one
    Why Round 3 – Started getting a little “out there” and couldn’t come up with a “why” for each one.

    Here is the biggest take away I got, something I had never thought of before (in relation to my “for fun” aspect of my creative business):
    • I love selling things I create for enjoyment/self-expression because I love seeing a customer’s face light up when they see one of my products that speaks to them (or they email me about it telling me how much they love it). Without exchanging any words at all we have a special connection. They understand something about me, my community, my story and my true/authentic self (because these are things I create mainly for self expression, unlike the graphic design portion of my business where everything I create is marketing based). They get me. We get each other. Their enthusiasm is infectious and in turn bounces back to me (and others) and keeps me motivated and feeling good. I love that through my self-expression and style I enable them to express themselves and feel good about themselves. I like to think that I’m adding some bit of beautiful or humor to their everyday. I also love being a part of someone’s “a-ha” moment when they are searching for a gift and they see something I create and say “this is perfect!”

    ——- THIS IS A LOT OF RAMBLING (and there’s more of it) – but I think this is a good place to end up ——

    Thanks so much for this exercise! It kind of wore my brain out, but it was so worth it.

    • WoW!!!

      Great work, Jalene! You really stuck with it. Now try to find a singular pain point or mission you feel you need to work toward solving. Something that is bigger than you, but related directly to these GBW answers.

      xo
      K

  6. Oh wow Kris! How does this group of wonderful creatives keep pushing all the right buttons for me – it blows me away 🙂

    So I have been feeling a bit down this week – so busy trying to keep up with all the “new stuff” on my job list from April’s classes and then feeling all the overwhelm that comes with it. And I realised that one of the problems was that I had stopped sewing so that I could fit in all this other stuff. So I sat down at 9pm one evening this week and sewed until almost midnight, and I felt the calm return to my soul. My brain cleared out all the “you should” and “you have to” stuff and just enjoyed the rhythm of the needle and thread. And by the end of the evening I had finished a sweet little Christmas gift and I had that warm glow feeling again.

    My GBW therefore is that I have to sew. I love the way the needle and thread feels in my fingers; I love the meditative zone I find when I am in the middle of a project; I love playing with colour because it is endlessly fascinating; I love seeing a new pattern develop stitch by tiny stitch; I love the variations that come with a simple change of stitch or colour; I love the history of embroidery and the connection that my sewing gives me to countless previous generations who picked up needle and thread for both purpose and pleasure; and I love the joy that comes with sharing my passion – either as a gift or by teaching someone else to sew their own. I love the feeling I get when someone starts to understand my style of stitching and is inspired to start designing their own pieces. Their growing confidence feeds my confidence and joy too.

    I can’t tell you how much it has helped me to write this down. I am going to work it up into something special and pin it on my wall, to remind me why I chose this path. Thanks heaps!

  7. Are you in cahoots with the sand man?? Cuz you sure seem to be “in my head” sista! Luv it!!!! I need to dig deep, deep, deeper. But in a nutshell my why is because teaching wears me out mentally, because I feel there isn’t much ME left at the end of the day for my family, because I love designing-it makes me feel good, I am a control freak so being home in control of my own biz sounds divine, and of course working in yoga pants is heavenly. There is more that I am not letting up to the surface. I will get it though down on paper for me to see.

    BTW, I would love to hear more of your story about teaching, then becoming a creative! I saw your sharing on Creative Live. Can’t wait for that!

    • Hi Trish!

      I want you to dig down into the why behind your favourite parts of your business – rather than the reasons you need to escape somewhere else. I can totally relate to the exhaustion from overextending in a caring profession like teaching, but you need a *real* GBW for your jewelry.

      It is often easier to find if you think about what you are doing for others and how it affects you when you affect someone else.

      Stay tuned! I’m still working on Pyjama Year. 🙂

      xo
      K

  8. Yay! Thanks for the focus, Kris! You are great at honing in on the really questions and helping people find clarity. I think about what I stand for a lot, and it boils down to wanting to empower women to lives that truly make them happy. I want to be part of a group of women who can show our daughters how to be strong, resilient and passionate because we role model those values every day. And, a big part of doing what I LOVE, is yes, being able to grab my schedule by the horns and create my own business on my own terms so that I can be there for my kids when they need me. I can’t think of anything more important. xoxo, Jen

    • I LOVE it, Jen!

      Now you can use that as a rubric to judge all of the goals you set for your business. Do they line up with your GBW? If yes, go for it! If no, toss it out the window 😉

      xo
      K

  9. I love this!! Especially since over the last few months, I’ve gotten further and further away from my GBW. My days have seemed to be filled with endless To Do Lists. I like bringing it back to my GBW as a way to motivate myself and say heck yes to all of the things that move me closer to that.

    One thought off the top of my head: I love helping women gain clarity and move closer to their goals and dreams. I love helping them feel accomplished — which in turn lights me up, too! I’ll have to spend more time diving deeper and getting into toddler mode with this.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

    • Hahah – go Toddler mode! I love it 🙂

      Next step? Think about why you love it when other women can feel accomplished? There’s a reason for the value we feel in our actions – and when you find that reason, you find a mission.

      xo
      K

  10. This journal exercise was great! I figured out that I started my business so I could do what I love, share what I love with others who love it, too so I’ll have a community where I belong – and be of benefit to the community I’m in. Seems a little abstract at this point but that’s where it led me. Being in the corporate world it is easy to feel lost amongst all the other cogs in the corporate machine – and it’s not creative by any means.

    Thanks for the insight, Kris!

  11. I’m totally with you on the be-in-control thing! I hadn’t really thought about it, but YES that is a huge reason that I do what I do.

    This is a FANTASTIC post and I’ll be revisiting it when I have some time to journal. My first instinct was that I couldn’t do my homework until I figured out the main direction of my new rebrand, and then I realized that doing this is exactly what will help me FIND that new direction. You tricksy fairy.

    I can’t wait to take 2015 by storm! Who knows what the year will hold for us all?

    Cheers,
    Sarah

    • Ah Ha! You’ve discovered my tricks!

      And you’re absolutely right: if you don’t think about your most important motivators, your rebrand will end up needing another rebrand before you know it. I find it’s always best to get down to the real real real reasons behind our businesses – the driving force that will keep us going when it’s hard and the struggles seem too big – and then let our whole brand be both supporting and coming out of that key motivation.

      It feels good, and it keeps you on track…and you’ll see next week that it helps us to know when to say YES and when to say NO.

      I’m excited to see your 2015 too, Sarah. It’s going to be pretty awesome, I think 🙂

      xo
      K

  12. Can I just tell you that I’m waaaaay excited that you are doing this series?! I love that time at the end of the year when you sit down and evaluate where you were, where you are, & where you are going. I’m totally going to use your process of finding the GBW, especially because I love that you are saying to keep going, keep asking why (I’ve never gone quite that far with it). I know part of the reason is also my health, and also that I like to work alone from home (introvert here!)…and also because I want to do the creative work I am passionate about, but I know it also goes beyond that.

    I’m super excited to read what you’ve got coming up!!!

    • Yay! I love it, Amanda!

      Think about the stuff you really love – that’s where you want to start the Toddler Test of Why? Why? Why?

      Can’t wait to hear where you go with it. I bet you have a really wonderful, thoughtful GBW 🙂

      xo
      K

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