What are Your WHYs?

 Know Your “Why” to Learn “How” to Cope with Challenge

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

To be fully human and fully alive is to suffer, experience fear, and face challenge. But why should anyone have to suffer  with so many challenges is a question many people ask. What’s all the suffering and challenge for? To what end? Why face problems? Why take on challenge? Why not resist, avoid, run for the hills, stay frozen with fear, stick your head in the sand and pretend its not happening, hoping that challenges will just go away on their own?

You Get to Pick Your Poison!

Many people resist the truth that life is full of problems and challenge.  Pain is an indisputable truth; it is the most real thing which means there exists a polar opposite!  If you are allowed to pick your poison, which you are, then to “suffer constructively” by accepting and facing challenge head on may be the better way to live a life of meaning, integrity, and with vitality.

It’s essential to your wellness and the quality of your life to understand what’s motivating you with regard to challenge. This will give you more insight about how to deal constructively with your pain and willingly face your challenge, voluntarily take on stress, and overcome obstacles.

Values Orient and Provide Purpose

Becoming clearer about our values that help us develop as more fully human rather than less, our whys for our choices and responses to what the world challenges us with, will help orient us in the world—both within our inner landscapes and outer. We need purpose and meaning to manage the existential anxiety of being human. We need to feel safely oriented in order to learn and grow to our full potential.

Strengthening our capacities, our ability to respond (or responsibility) and our discipline helps us to live out our values, to act them out in the world, to actualize with purpose and be fulfilled, wise and well, if not happy and comfortable. Values and discipline  provide order and security when it seems the rest of the people around us are caught up in the chaos of living according to materialism, consumerism, nihilism, hedonism, and relativism. I believe that becoming more human, more united as human, and developing our shared humanity is the challenge of our age.


In the Course on Attention, you learned where you spend your attention and that attention is linked to your values or what matters most to you. Your attention is what you are aiming at– a target, a goal, a reason ‘why’ to think and act and make choices in your daily life. So, in order to face challenge, to be inspired and motivated to do what is difficult,  it’s a good idea to review your values if you have not already. Answer the following in writing after spending some time reflecting on what matters to you.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

What matters most to you?

What is good for you? (You have to be honest about this one– it can be a trap! Perhaps revisit your work in the Self-Awareness Course)

What do you live for?

What does your intuition or heart ask you to follow for your wellness and fulfillment (even if this conflicts what your mind or society tells you)?

What calls out to you to pay attention to it?

What draws or invites you to follow it— an inkling, an epiphany, an awakening to new possibilities or new paths to travel? (even if you resist or fear such invitations)

What is your biggest “why?” (Prioritize your values)

If you have something worth struggling and suffering for, you’ll be more likely to suffer better, suffer with less resistance, and thereby grow in wellness. Your “why” is your purpose and your passion that will give your life a sense of meaning, despite the suffering and pain that is inevitable as a human being.



“The most hopeful result of analysis finds the patient suffering more of his pain than he was able to manage before. More of his pain is held in conscious awareness instead of being discharged into behavior that jumbles up his life, injuring his relationships or his work. A successful therapeutic venture leaves the patient’s… life improved, perhaps dramatically…instead of being tormented by meaningless pain, he will suffer pain constructively. Pain is always part of life, and the wounds that have molded the person into exactly this or that shape will continue to channel his responses to pain in his unique ways.”
— Barbara Sullivan

Pain is our greatest teacher. What have you learned from pain, anxiety, fear? Write about it.

My values get me up in the morning, structure what I do with my time each day, guide my choices, influence how I treat myself and others. My values are my “whys.” You can become clearer about your whys by understanding your own attention and studying your body and mind carefully in the Courses in Attention & Self-Awareness if you haven’t yet already.

What are you willing to suffer for?

What are you willing to sacrifice or delay gratification for?

What values will inspire and motivate you to discipline yourself?


Love isn’t Logical

Remember, purpose and passion aren’t necessarily what you might conjure on your own, by your own power, by thinking, or by making to do lists and goal setting. Some of the process of becoming who you are, truly, happens when you let go, stop forcing life to happen the way you’d like it to happen, and free yourself up to allow purpose and passion to find you, to call you, and show you the way forward. Maybe your challenges and failures and pain are those calls? Maybe the obstacle really is the way to becoming who are meant to be?

Values Resources

Mindfulness-based psychotherapeutic approaches, like Marcia Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Steven Hayes’ Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are values-oriented treatments designed to help individuals grapple with existential challenges to develop a life worth living, that is– one of meaning and purpose.

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