Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

Sometimes, life gets really hectic and we don’t take the time to stand back and just question on why we do what we do.

I recently read, for a second time, Simon Sinek’s great book “Start with Why” and I would highly recommend it to all of you.

In the book, Simon says that is not the “what” that motivates us to jump out of bed in the mornings, it is the “why”. It is not the “what” that drives us to give great service and become expert in our field, it is the “why”.

I also read an article recently written by Richard Branson who said that an entrepreneur’s drive is not about making money, but about making a difference in people’s lives. He believes that those driven by money will not be around for the long haul.

I have spent some time recently asking my clients why they do what they do and while it is far from exhaustive research, it is interesting to note that those who were crystal clear about their “why”, have businesses that are more evolved – and are significantly more profitable! The financial benefits are an outcome of that clarity.

This led me to start thinking about businesses that, in my view, lost sight of their why, and what the consequences have been, and my list is as follows:

Banking industry:

Obvious candidate for this list, but there is no doubt that they lost complete sight of their original why and profit became their only focus. Will they learn? I don’t know!


Set out to provide great service to their clients and then went like the banks. Again, their “why” got lost.


They were the Apple of their day, but lost sight of the fact that their original why was to make business more efficient. Their “why” became their “what” –  to build big computers!


They started out to make communication easy, but their “what” – we make mobile phones – became their reason for being. They controlled the market and lost it!


Brilliant invention to make getting from one place to another so fast, but then became fixated on trains and railroads and not on their customers.

Many large insurance direct sales forces:

Huge in the 70s and 80s, but their focus shifted away from serving their clients to how much commission they could earn that year and the organizations cultivated that shift with the incentives given.

There are loads of other examples – and many not quite so dramatic – but losing sight of your “why” is destined to put you, at best, in the “average” band of businesses. Not where you want to be, or where I want you to be.

So, how does having a clear “why” help your business?

As I said earlier, it tells you why you get out of bed in the morning to go and do something of value, but it does more than that.

Your “why” also does the following:

  • It provides you with your guiding principles as to what you do and how you do it.
  • It informs your clients of your reason for being.
  • It determines your behavior – what you do and how you do it.
  • It is reflected in your values.
  • It determines the sort of clients you will deal with – they will share in your why.
  • It determines the sort of people you hire and represent you and your business.

When I start talking about this, many people ask me why I do what I do, and my why is very simple, and important to me.  My passion is to help my clients to win in their businesses and in their lives – which is why I branded my podcast Winning at Business and Life. This clarity helps me every day, and drives me to give as much as I can to support my clients.

Having a clear “why” gives you a context for everything you do in your business, and your life.

What is your “why”? Love to hear.

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By John Murphy

John Murphy is founder of JohnMurphyInternational, a specialist online coaching business. John specializes in advising and mentoring entrepreneurs and senior executives on how to build their business and be effective as a leader and manager.

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