Lesson Activity

If you go back to your priorities from the activity in Principle 5, ask yourself “why?” 5 times and see where you end up. What is the meaning and purpose of your change? It is these deeper things that will be permanent and drive you.


What is the power of having meaning and purpose in your life?  And can it help you on your journey?

Let me tell you a true story of a person who found meaning despite severely harsh and painful physical and psychological situations.  And it was this meaning that helped him survive.  The story is about a  Jewish psychiatrist called Dr Viktor Frankl who lived during the Second World War.  Like all the Jewish people around Germany and Austria at the time he was put into a concentration camp by the Nazi’s.  He was considered fit enough to keep alive to do labour for the Nazis, yet his mother, brother and wife were killed.  Every day his friends died around him and he lived on barely any food, in freezing conditions with minimal clothes, in a place of little hope.  Yet he survived.  How?  He had meaning.  He wrote a book which I recommend to lots of people called “Man’s Search for Meaning” and you can check it out too if you like.

Interesting this is supported by research into the biology of meaning.  One example of this is a 2013 paper which reviewed gene expression in 80 people.  People were assessed as to whether they were more hedonic (pleasure seekers, seeking happiness), or eudaimonic (seeking meaning and purpose).  It showed that those were more focussed on seeking happiness had much higher levels of pro-inflammatory genes and proteins in their blood, whereas those focussed on meaning and purpose had lower gene expression for inflammation.

Every day I see people who find meaning and purpose in their struggles and it is one of the most common deciding factors I see between those that succeed in the long term and those that don’t.  So you have to ask yourself – Why?  What is my ”why”?  Why do I want or need to do this?  If your why is superficial and weak, like “I want to look good” then it will not last for most people because this desire comes and goes for various reasons.  If your why is based on what people external to you are telling you then this will fail too because it is not coming from your deeper desires and needs.

So it really serves you well to reflect on your whys. A good exercise for this is to think about your whys, then ask why again and again, so you do it 5 times and then you will get to the real underlying reasons.  For example, I want to lose weight, why?  Because I want to look good and be healthy.  Why do you want to look good?   Because I feel better about myself and I am   Why do you want to be healthy?  Because I live longer for my children.  Why?  Because I love them.  So in this common example when you break it down the true drivers are the love of others and a deeper sense of self-worth.  These are our long term motivators.

You don’t need to just have one why, maybe you have a list of them – some short term ones like saving money and having more energy, and some longer-term ones like being a good role model for your children.

I also encourage you to surround yourself with motivational triggers.  This could be inspirational people in podcasts, TED talks or great people in history that you relate to.  I have put a list of potential ways to find regular motivation below, have a look and initiate a few of them into your daily life.   These don’t need to be constant, but just some good motivation once or twice a week can really help.

So please – take this as an exercise to do right now after this video.  What are your whys?  I don’t know what yours will be but I encourage you to think about it and if you are struggling to find your motivation and meaning don’t worry, that is quite normal.  We are not often taught that meaning matters and how to find it so most of us are not good at it and really struggle to find any. So talk to a health professional or a friend or check out some of the resources below.