Getting back to basics. It’s become a theme in my own reflective practice over the last few weeks and I notice that it is hovering just beneath the surface in conversations everywhere – with course participants, coaching clients, friends, and family members.

In these complex and often confusing times, there seems to be a yearning for clarity at the most basic levels of life. Who am I? Why am I here? And where am I going? And not just for us as individuals, but also as organizations and companies, and as a collective society. Who are we and where are we going?

If you, too, sense this longing within yourself, your company or organization, or in society as a whole, I invite you to give yourself time and space to sit with five clarifying questions. These are not questions to be answered in 15 minutes or an hour. They aren’t questions to “work on.” Instead they are questions to live in. Let the questions work on you for a week or two. Walk with them. Dream with them. Put them up on the wall or as a screen saver on your computer – someplace that will help keep them in your awareness.

You might even set an intention for clarity from these questions by a particular date. For example, without concerning yourself with how it will happen, you might set the intention that two weeks from today you will be able to answer these questions with some degree of certainty. And then, then let the questions work on you.

The five questions are:

  • Who am I and why am I here?
  • Where am I going and what am I doing?
  • Why?
  • Is it sustainable?
  • What is my next step?

Let’s explore each one a little more fully.  

Who am I and why am I here?

This is perhaps the most basic question of human existence. Finding clarity about this question brings a greater sense of self-awareness and purpose. Most of us want to know that we matter – that our presence makes a difference. The clearer we are about who we are and why we are here, the more impactful our presence can be.

The question, “Who am I and why am I here?” goes far deeper than just your name, the roles that you play in your personal and public life, and why you play those roles. It’s about who you are at your essence. It’s about what is important to you above all else.  

What are the passions that form the core of your being? And do you give those passions a voice? Are they expressed through your work and through your relationships, both personal and professional?

This is soul mission work. Getting clear about the answer to this question can change your life. And if you are not yet clear, it’s OK. This is a good place to start.

Where am I going and what am I doing?

Do you have a sense of direction in your life? Are you consciously moving forward toward something that matters to you?

This is much bigger than goals or projects. At their best, goals and projects are vehicles to help you live into who you are and why you are here. Where we go and what we do, in turn, shapes who we are. Knowing who we are called to be and why can help us make intentional choices about where we go and what we do. Having purpose and direction brings greater meaning to our lives.


What is your motivation for going where you are going and doing what you are doing? This third question circles back to the first. Are you heading in a direction that is in alignment with who you are and why you are here? Is how you spend your time and energy congruent with what you really care about – with what is truly important to you and where your passions lie?

If not, be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Beating up on yourself will not help. Be curious and explore. And be diligent. What is asking for your attention? What are you being asked to re-consider? What is the invitation in front of you right now to bring the living of your life into alignment with who you truly are?

Is it sustainable?

This question is about much more than just survival – whether or not you make enough money, or can support your family, or have a comfortable lifestyle. It’s about the big picture of your life. Is how you are living sustainable emotionally, spiritually, physically, creatively, intellectually?

In other words, is how you are living each day sustaining all of who you are? Can you keep doing what you are doing for the foreseeable future and feel inspired and challenged? As you are living now, can you continue growing and evolving into the greatest potential of who you are while, at the same time, taking care of life’s basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and good health? Will where you are going and what you are doing support you to thrive?

What is my next step?

This question is key to moving forward. Notice that the question is not, “What is my plan?” The question only asks about your next step. Having come to some clarity about the first four questions, what is the invitation for you now? What is “who you are and why you are here” asking you to do next?

If your life feels aligned and focused, then what is the next step in following your soul mission and personal calls to action?

However, if you are not feeling aligned and focused, once again, be gentle and compassionate with yourself. And be diligent to recognize a next step in moving toward that alignment and focus. You don’t have to achieve alignment immediately today, or even this week. Yet you can take a step toward alignment. As we mentioned before, you might set an intention that by a certain date, you will have brought your life into more alignment and be clearer in your focus. Then consciously let that intention work on you.

These simple yet profound questions can bring you back home to yourself. If you give them time and space, they can bring you clarity, strength, and purpose for the living of your life. And that is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and to the people you care about the most.

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