The image symbolizes the journey of self-discovery and the quest to find your why, featuring a solitary figure at a crossroads, gazing into a horizon that splits into multiple paths

Find Your Why and Live Your Best Life Starting Now

The concept of “finding your why” is pivotal in giving our lives direction and meaning. I’m opening up about my personal journey—how I unearthed my true ‘why,’ after a traumatic childhood.

It’s a story about discovery, about finding that guiding purpose which eventually culminated in the birth of ResilientStories.

Before we dive into that, let’s do a little background on where this term comes from.

Simon Sinek and His Book Find Your Why

Simon Sinek is a renowned leadership expert and motivational speaker, best known for popularizing the concept of “WHY” in business and personal development. His approach challenges conventional wisdom about what drives us to do what we do and how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, and change.

Sinek’s book Start With Why (paid link) delves into the idea that successful leaders and organizations are those that communicate their ‘why’–their purpose, cause, or belief–before anything else. He argues that this approach fosters a powerful connection with others, inspiring them to act not just for the product or service but for the shared belief and vision.

It also encouraged people to do meaningful work and find their passion.

In Find Your Why (paid link), Sinek builds on these ideas, offering practical steps for individuals and teams to discover their own ‘why.’ This book serves as a guide to finding one’s purpose, providing tools to understand and articulate what drives personal fulfillment and success.

Simon Sinek quote that reads, "There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it."

I Discovered My First ‘Why’ Around the Time I Was 12

Parental abandonment, an addict parent, and other childhood traumas shaped my childhood. I soon realized I needed a different path for myself. At the time, all I knew about my true identity was that I did not want to end up like my mother, despite the statistical odds that I would.

I daydreamed of becoming a successful writer with a family that loved her rather than the unwanted child who lived with her grandparents. I was a kid, so I didn’t really have a solid career path, or life goal planned out. I just wanted to write, have love in my life, feel safe, and not do drugs.

My focus and sense of purpose became all about getting perfect grades and going to college for a degree in Journalism and Communications. Years later, I graduated from high school early with an Associate of Arts in Liberal Sciences. When it came time to go to USF to pursue my journalism degree, the past came back to derail my plans.

You see, my mother had been placed in the witness protection program the summer I turned 14 (right before I started high school). Now, after graduation, I discovered that my grandma knew where she was, and we headed off on a surprise trip to see her. I ended up staying with her and going to a different school for a different degree… and then six months later, she died in a car crash.

People’s Lives are Rarely Linear When it Comes to Finding Fulfillment

Young me had this idea that all I needed to do was have a dream, some hope, and a plan, and then everything would just come together. 18-year-old me quickly figured out it wasn’t quite that easy (although that is still a huge part of the answer), and real life was about to lead me down the most roundabout path.

As someone who had already cultivated a sense of resilience (although I had really only mastered survival at this point), I thought I was ready to take on the world. I ended up getting married and having a baby by the time I was 20.

My college dreams were put on hold while my husband finished his degree. He was getting a degree in Computer Science, and as new parents, suddenly, things like financial security and money mattered more than passions and feelings.

A few years later, I opted to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I had spent the last 5 years working in various management positions and thought this degree would help me earn more money. Every day seemed like it was just a struggle.

Whether that meant looking for a job, trouble in our relationship, or the financial hardships of two kids getting married, having a kid and having no idea how to manage money. It was a hot mess in those early years.

Things got much better after he graduated. We ended up having another child. He got a good job, and I had a decent income. However, I did not return home fulfilled. I was happy with my family, was developing my skills, and doing ‘well enough.’

A metaphorical representation of life's unpredictable and complex journey towards personal fulfillment. There is a winding road going through various life milestones, like marriage, births, and careers.

Then, One Day, I Realized That It Felt Like I Was Living Someone Else’s Life

Ultimately, I put all this effort into having a productive career and a life that looked nothing like the one that my mother lived. I have realized, over the last few years, that the vast majority of people would think life was good. And it was… it wasn’t that it was bad… but it was missing something.

Simon Sinek describes life as an infinite game. In a finite game, there is a clearly defined endpoint, and there are winners and losers. In an infinite game, all parties are working to keep the game in play. There are no winners or losers, but rather those who drop out of the game because of a lack of will or resources to continue playing.

I didn’t want to just keep playing. I wanted to live the life I had spent years envisioning as a child. For the first time in a long time, I remembered my love of writing.

I got involved with a community group of writers and started the daily habit of walking around the lake. That is how my freelance writing business was born. This is also when I met the best mentor I have ever had. Early on, when I was a freelance writer for him, he asked me, “How do you imagine your writing career? If you could have whatever you wanted, what would it be?”

I said the first thing that popped into my head, “I want to inspire people with the words I write. If I could make a living doing it and work from home, that would be amazing.” And that happened pretty quickly! Then, about three years in, he promoted me to managing editor.

It was the career of my dreams and it hadn’t taken me long to achieve at all!

A Simon Sinek quote reminding you to find your why. "Dream big. Start small. But most of all, start."

Resilient Stories: Finding My Why’ in Empowering Others

The inception of Resilient Stories was a direct result of being laid off from my dream job just shy of my one-year anniversary in the role. Myself and my entire team of writers were let go. I hung up the phone feeling like a failure and hearing the voice of everyone who told me ‘writing was silly’ bouncing around in my head.

I was trying to just come up with some way to earn an income in the short term. Freelance work again? Write more on my Medium profile? Get some kind of other job?

While I was throwing around all these options, my husband and friends kept telling me, “Just start your own website!”

I had all these excuses like:

  • It is too hard

  • Websites take forever to earn anything

  • I don’t understand the technical side well enough

Then, one night about a week after the layoff, my husband tried again with the “start your own website” mantra. He goes, just think for a second… what would you do? And it was like I suddenly had this crystal clear sense of what I needed to be doing.

I told him I would start a website where resilience was the focus. It would be a place where people could connect and inspire one another. My thought was that if more people shared their life stories, specifically those hard moments, then we wouldn’t feel so alone.

When I ran the idea by my friends, they were all supportive. They could see how resilience and our stories all hold common threads that offer new perspectives on our challenges.

Simon Sinek quote, "The more people you inspire, the more people will inspire you."

The Power of Finding Your ‘Why’

Understanding the ‘why’ behind our actions brings clarity and motivation. There is a quote that I heard back when I was a teenager struggling with the reality that my mother was going into witness protection. I believed I would likely never see her again.

This was a pretty dark period in my young life, and I once gave an entire speech during debate class about how my mother should have just aborted me, too. Not too long after that debate, I discovered this quote by Mark Twain:

“The two most important days in life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”

I won’t lie. I wondered why I was here on this earth a lot back then. Writing novels or sad poetry didn’t seem like something the world needed. It couldn’t have been the reason I had endured all this heartbreak and pain.

Now, during the period of life when I was working, married, and raising kids, I remember thinking, “This is it! This is the reason I am alive.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and my kids. They are a part of my reason for starting ResilientStories. I like the flexible hours and the time I can spend with them.

But I believe the second most important day, the day I found out why I was born, happened early on my journey to rediscover writing. My friend Lia, who would years later become the Co-Founder of ResilientStoires, had just read my latest story.

With tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “You know you went through all of this so you could write stories like this that are so moving, raw, and real.” That feeling of knowing my words had such a positive impact on her made my entire being buzz with energy.

A figure walks into a portal in the sky surrounded by stories and books and pencils. A metaphorical illustration of when I found my why.

Transformative Effects of Understanding Your Purpose

Knowing your ‘why’ transforms how you approach every aspect of life. It influences your decisions, your relationships, and even your daily routines. Suddenly, each action and choice gains a new depth as they align with a larger purpose.

For me, understanding my ‘why’ meant aligning my passions with my career, reshaping my identity beyond the roles of wife and mother, and embracing my role as a storyteller and mentor.

This clarity brought about a profound shift in my interactions. I found myself connecting more deeply with people, as my conversations and writings were now imbued with a strong sense of purpose and passion. It wasn’t just about sharing stories anymore; it was about forging connections, sparking inspiration, and fostering a community of resilience.

In the professional realm, this understanding meant no longer just working for a paycheck or status. Each project, each article became a part of a larger mission—to uplift, to educate, to connect. The long hours became worthwhile, the challenges surmountable, and the successes more fulfilling.

At home, it allowed me to model for my children what it means to pursue one’s passions and to live a life driven by purpose. They saw firsthand the value of resilience, hard work, and following one’s heart.

Personally, it meant embracing a life where every challenge was an opportunity to learn and grow, where every setback was a chance to strengthen my resolve, and every success a moment to reflect and give thanks.

In understanding your purpose, you find a compass that guides you through life’s storms and joys alike. It becomes your anchor and your sail, driving you forward and keeping you grounded. It’s a journey of constant discovery and redefinition, but one that makes life infinitely richer and more meaningful.

Subheading: Steps to Uncover Your Life’s Purpose

To discover your own ‘why,’ consider the following steps:

  • Reflect on Your Passions: Think about activities that ignite your excitement or bring you joy.

    • Journal about times when you felt most alive and fulfilled.

    • Create a vision board that represents your aspirations and dreams.

  • Evaluate Your Strengths: Identify what you’re naturally good at and how it aligns with what you love doing.

  • Look for Patterns: Consider common themes in your happiest and most fulfilling life moments.

  • Ask for Feedback: Sometimes others can see our strengths and passions more clearly than we can.

  • Envision Your Ideal Life: Imagine a life where you are completely fulfilled and identify what that looks like.

An Oprah Winfrey quote that reads, "The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams."

Finding one’s purpose isn’t always straightforward

Common obstacles include self-doubt, societal expectations, fear of failure, and lack of clarity. Here’s how to navigate these challenges:

  • Address Self-Doubt: Acknowledge these feelings, but don’t let them define your decisions.

  • Challenge Societal Expectations: Remember, your path doesn’t have to align with societal norms.

  • Embrace Failure as Learning: View failures as opportunities to grow and refine your path.

  • Seek Clarity Through Exploration: Try new experiences and learn from them to gain a clearer sense of direction.

Finding your ‘why’ is a transformative journey that brings clarity and meaning to your life. It’s about aligning your actions with your deepest core values and passions. I encourage each of you to embark on this journey, as it holds the power to reshape your world and lead you to a life filled with purpose and fulfillment.

A Moliere quote that reads, "The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."

Start a Journey to Find Your Why

I invite you to share your journey of finding your ‘why’ and how it has impacted your life. Have you found clarity and purpose? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

Your stories are powerful and can inspire others. For more inspiration and to see how others navigated their path to purpose, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Let’s inspire and uplift each other on our journeys. Leave some uplifting comments in the section below!

6 thoughts on “Find Your Why and Live Your Best Life Starting Now

  1. Onnie

    Of all the stories I plan on reading on your site, this one seems like it was the perfect one to start with because just as Sinek says, it all starts with Why! Funny enough, I actually have a picture of him on my vision board to remind me of this- how knowing the reason for our venture/mission/life/whatever is so important. I’ve been thinking a lot about my business and what you shared in this post is inspiring me to re-examine my why behind my business because doing so will provide me with clarity and a renewed purpose, something I know I need! Thank you for sharing this story Danielle, and on a side note, I would totally be up to walking around the lake with you some day- it’s one of my favorite parts of living in this town- a hidden gem!

    1. Danielle Dahl Post author

      Thank you, Onnie, for leaving a comment! We truly believe that why you do something is as important (if not more) than how you do something. Clarity and purpose will help us all live our best lives, and enrich the lives of others. Lake Elmo is indeed a special place! We hope you take a moment to sign up for the monthly newsletter, and check out some of the other inspiring stories on the site!


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