Crush your goals by developing a rock solid why

Jarie Bolander · June 13, 2016 · Short URL:

Lessons learned from endurance sports

The author living his why

It’s a cloudless sunny day as we stand at attention on the grinder — a concrete pad at the center of the SEALFIT compound in Encinitas, CA about 25 miles north of San Diego.

“You guys are a bunch of idiots!” coach Taco blasted out of his Bay Watch style bullhorn, red paint chipped from repeated abuse as we are undoubtedly going to face real soon.

“I cannot believe you actually paid for this.”

Welcome to Kokoro camp, a 50+ hour endurance event that challenges your body, mind and spirit to push past your limits and achieve 20x your potential. It’s the ultimate endurance event that takes every ounce of your will and determination to finish. My journey to finishing Kokoro started out with one simple question.

Why am I doing this?

You may ask yourself this question when faced with the blank page or bare canvas as you begin your Alchemist quest into the unknown. The question of why may also come up as you encounter the resistance on your quest to finish a goal.

For some of you, your why may already be rock solid. But I would venture a bet that most of you think you know your why, but are still disappointed in not achieving you goals.

That’s about to change.

Building a rock solid why

Building your rock solid why takes effort and grit to forge into an ethos that makes it impossible for you to quit. It’s your only friend when the resistance is in full force, chipping away at your spirit.

Your why is your anchor. It’s your north star when the rough seas of life toss you about.

Forging your rock solid why is a simple process that can be broken down into the following seven steps.

Step 1: Define Your Goal

In as few words as possible, clearly define your goal. Your goal must have a “what” and “when” so that you’ll know when the goal is achieved. This may sound simple, yet too often, people define goals that are vague or open ended.

Goal setting is critical to crafting your why because your motivations change depending on the goal. By defining the goal in crisp, simple terms, with a timeframe, you can achieve a level of clarity that will focus your efforts like a laser beam.

Example goal: Train for and finish Kokoro Camp by May 2014.

Step 2: What is your unique gift to the world?

Once your goal is simple, specific, has a timeframe and is written down, the next step is to understand your unique gift that you can give to the world. This is important because your why and your gift go hand in hand. Let me explain.

Your unique gift is that aspect of yourself that you excel at. It might be the ability to empathize with others, create useful inventions, make art that moves people or organize people into action. Your unique gift dovetails into your why because it sets the parameters for what you can achieve. Now, this does not mean that you can’t learn new gifts or talents but it does frame the realm of reality.

Continuing with our example from step one, my unique gift to the world is that I can empathize with the struggles other feel and I am my best self in the service of others.

Step 3: Define your motivations

Motivation is an essential component of a why that must endure the inventible hardships, struggles, setups, and disappointments on your path to you goal. For this step, create a list of motivations in two columns. Label the first column intrinsic and the second column extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivations are ones driven by internal rewards such as the joy you receive from doing the activity while extrinsic motivations are ones driven by external rewards such as awards, money, and praise.

What’s important about motivation is that your main motivations be intrinsic since those stay with you no matter what while extrinsic motivations will wax and wane as the stress and strain of your circumstances change.

Building on our example from step two, my motivations for completing Kokoro camp were to be a better leader in my community by learning how to stick with tasks no matter what happens.

Step 4: Find a higher calling

Having a higher calling pulls your motivations up to a level that gives you an inherit sense of purpose. This sense of purpose is a powerful motivator when struggles and setbacks start to get in your way.

A higher calling does not have to be as bold as ending war or poverty. Those are truly noble endeavors that should be pursued but may be so overwhelming that it may discourage you from even starting. Start out realistic and build up, over time, to bigger and bolder higher callings.

Higher calling for completing Kokoro camp was to be prepared to lead my family, company and community when called upon.

Step 5: Define Your why by digging deep

Now that you have assembled your goal, figured out your unique gift, defined your motivations and found your higher calling, it’s now time to take all that input and craft your rock solid why. At this point, you should have thought a lot about your goal and how the last four steps will allow you to crush it.

With all the answers to the last four steps, answer the following question:

The reason I want to achieve my goal is ….

Write down a least two or three answers to this question so that you can truly expose your reasons.

Next, take each question and answer the why at least five times. This may seem like overkill but the premise is simple – you need to ask why until you cannot ask why anymore. What this will do is distill your motivations down to the most basic reasons.

Once you cannot answer why anymore, examine your answers to see if any trends emerge. If you have truly hit your why, you should notice that most of your whys have a similar theme. The theme that emerges is your rock solid why.

Looking back at the Kokoro camp example, let’s write down a couple of answers to the above question:

The reasons I wanted to complete Kokoro camp are:

1. Prepare myself to handle adversity no matter what

  • Why #1: I sometimes quit when faced with adversity
  • Why #2: I am not confident in my abilities
  • Why #3: I struggle to learn and acquire new skills
  • Why #4: I don’t have the patience to stick with it
  • Why #5: I lack the training and tools to build patience

2. Step up to leadership challenges when called upon

  • Why #1: Most projects and movements lack strong leadership
  • Why #2: The challenges of leadership scare people away
  • Why #3: Most people are not trained to handle the challenges
  • Why #4: People don’t push themselves past their limits
  • Why #5: It’s hard to find a safe place to fail and learn

Rock Solid Why: I want to prepare myself to face the challenges of leadership when called upon to lead my community, company and family.

Step 6: Find a mantra

Having defined your rock solid why is not enough. You need one more tool to quickly bring you back to your why’s focus when times get tough. That tool is your mantra.

A mantra is a super simple saying that can quickly refocus your efforts so that you don’t get stuck in your own private pity party. It has to be simple so that it’s easily remembered when all seems lost.

This may seem redundant to your why and in some ways, it is, but that’s all part of reinforcing your why and making it rock solid.

For our Kokoro camp example why, my manta was:

Focus on the task at hand – don’t just pound sand.

This reinforces my why of finishing Kokoro camp because no matter how hard the training was or how painful the event got, I simply said my mantra to keep focused on the here and now.

Step 7: Visualize your goal via your why

Your why and your mantra can only be effective if you use them daily. The best way to use both is to do a simple daily visualization by following these steps:

1. Visualize the process of completing your end goal including all the preparation

2. Visualize where you are on the journey to your goal right now

3. Say your why out load

4. Repeat your mantra, out loud, at least three times

It’s best to do this simple visualization and confirmation when you are about to start working or when things get rough. This practice of visualization will reset your focus on achieving your goal.

Live your why everyday

All people who challenge themselves fight the resistance to achieve their goals. A rock solid why coupled with a simple mantra is a powerful tool on your quest to do great work. Your why and mantra also reinforce your commitment and give you a daily check-in as to where you are towards your goals. Living your why everyday will reinforce your resolve and allow you to achieve your goals no matter what the journey throws at you.

About the Author: Jarie Bolander is founder and COO of Lab Sensor Solutions – a startup that is brining sensor technology to healthcare. He has completed marathons, triathlons and multiday endurance events such as Kokoro. He also gives insights into the 8 Deadly Dilemmas Successful Tech Entrepreneurs Navigate over at his blog, The Daily MBA.


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Jarie Bolander

I am an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature, experienced at bring innovative solutions to market. Currently I'm the co-founder and COO of Lab Sensor Solutions, a company improving healthcare through the use of sensor networks.

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