Change Your Why or Change Your How


Change Your Why or Change Your How

“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” – Satchel Paige

Chances are you have tasks each day, that you just don’t want to do.  Talk about un motivation.

You can’t always change the “what” you have to do, but you can always change the “why” or “how.”  If you change your “why” or change your “how”, you can find your motivation, even for tasks you don’t normally want to do.  This approach for motivation works because instead of rely on external motivation, you make it intrinsic or internal.  You basically find your drive from the inside out, rather than wait for it, or react to external pressure.

By motivating yourself with skill, you can actually enjoy the things you already have to do or get them done faster and easier.  You can also use this approach to take on new things.

3 Ways to Change Your Why
Here are three ways to change your “why”:

  1. Find a higher cause (e.g. “I’m doing this for the greater good vs. just for me.”)
  2. Make new meaning (e.g. “I don’t want to take out the trash” becomes “taking out the trash helps do my part around the house.”)
  3. Tell yourself a compelling story (e.g. “I write the code that brings good ideas to life” or “I write the songs that make the world a better place.”)

6 Ways to Change Your How
Here are six ways to change your “how”:

  1. Use deliberate practice to master your craft (i.e. use a disciplined approach to improve a routine activity.)
  2. Make it a game (against time, against yourself, …)
  3. Pair up with somebody (somebody might enjoy sharing the load or teaching you their ways.)
  4. Change when you do it — you’ll find you have different energy levels (i.e. you can get more done during your power hours or creative hours.)
  5. Link it to good feelings (e.g. play your favorite songs.)
  6. Set a limit (e.g. chunk it up or timebox it.)

While there’s a will there’s a way, but I find that finding my will is a skill that gets better with practice.

My Related Posts

Photo by Capture Queen.


  1. I really like that ‘my will is a skill . . .’ concept! Reconnecting with my ‘why’ is a big motivator for me too. Sometimes even things I love can seem like mundane tasks, but remembering that someone needs some help, inspiration, or encouragement goes a long towards propelling me into action.

  2. Mmm… this to me is like the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is doing things right (the how), effectiveness is doing the right thing (the why). I think it’s best to handle the why before the how, even though both are important.

  3. @ Jean — I’m a fan of turning things into skill over lucking into success. Life changes too much to count on luck 😉 One of my favorite books is Edward de Bono’s Tactics: The Art and Science of Success. In the book, he studies the keys to success and a lot of it does boil down to skill (aside from who you know and luck.)

    @ Eduard — The surprise here is that changing your how can be a way to create your why. Why do we do anything? … To feel good — to reduce pain or increase pleasure (the means varies wildly.) Sometimes our why helps our how, other times it’s enjoying the how that inspires. A related surprise is the key to passionate purposes are they create intense pleasure or they reduce great pain.

  4. Hello,
    I like the new meaning……I really don’t want to clean the bathroom will become, when I have done this I can laze in a hot bath, in a beautifully spotless bathroom, bliss!!

    I agree about the time limit too. For ecxample if I tell myself I am going to write between 10 and 11am, I will be really productive. If I say I am going to write one article today, it will take twice as long as I’m not so focused for that set period of time.
    Best wishes,

  5. I love thinking about the difference between the “why” and the “how” and life, but I’ve never thought much about what it means to change them (and how those changes are different). Excellent tips here and thanks for making me think about this very interesting topic!

  6. @ Fred — Limits are so enabling it’s surprising 😉

    @ Kate — Oh yeah, using quick images of the future bliss is perfect! Time limits can make almost anything palatable. I wish I could squish all the pain I ever had in my life down into a single minute. That would have been a simpler pill to swallow 😉

    @ Positively Present — It really turns your mind into a true creative force. You can get really creative in finding ways to unleash your best!

  7. Hi JD .. do the things you don’t want to do first – then they’re done & do all you can today, so there’s a clean slate for tomorrow & prepare for tomorrow .. makes life a lot easier.

    Your ‘change your why’ makes so much sense .. and brings the positive out, while the ‘change your how’ – think differently .. and make it simpler to accomplish .. and we definitely feel more energised the more we achieve and are successful in our daily tasks towards our goal and dreams.

    Thanks – enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

  8. @ Hilary — I’m a fan of fresh starts and clean slates. It’s way too easy to build up baggage or get bogged down. I like how changing the why or changing the how can inject new jazz into things.

  9. […] perspective a lot on this blog and J.D. put up a post that gives a fresh view. It’s called Change Your Why or Change Your How. If you can reframe a problem it ceases to be a […]

  10. @ Karl — You said it — when we care about the outcome, we get more out of it along the way. It’s the art of being fully engaged.

  11. I actually make my productivity a game. Every time I do something to help me succeed I give myself points. I try to reach a certain amount of points each day. It’s a game that keeps me focused and challenge myself to do amazing work.

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