The Gut Check: Applying Your Purpose to the Focusing Question

Apr 10, 2019 | Productivity, The ONE Thing | 0 comments

Everyone has a purpose in life. Knowing what that purpose is, is both blessing and an incredible responsibility. It’s a big thing to feel committed to, and it has the ability to pull us in all kinds of directions—not all of which are fruitful and worth our time. But it matters. Knowing why we’re excited about the life we’re living is important. Instead of ignoring our purpose, or letting it control us without any real sense of direction, we should acknowledge it and focus on ways to channel it in a productive way.

That’s where the Focusing Question comes into play.

When we apply our purpose to the Focusing Question (What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?), we can experience a double whammy of focus that can help us knock our goals right out of the park and in the process, fulfill our purpose.

Defining our Purpose

When we think about what our purpose is, all too often, we get a little lost. First, we typically begin by thinking about what we’re currently doing, our daily routines, where we get up, go about our day, go to sleep and wake up the next morning to do it all again, and we try to make sense of it all by giving it some meaning.

And while that meaning sometimes sits well with us, other times it doesn’t. So the next thing we do is think back on what we’ve done in the past—remembering a time when we truly felt fulfilled, and we begin to long of those feelings and start to believe that we may have lost our way.

From there, we might eventually start thinking about what we wanted to do when we were children, and look to what we haven’t done and what we aren’t doing as means of identifying our purpose. And while those thoughts sometimes help people identify their purpose, for a lot of us, it just leaves us feeling like we’ve missed the boat and that our work is devoid of all meaning.

And that isn’t true.

Purpose doesn’t always have to be something concrete and definitive. Our purpose in life can change over time and come to reflect a number of different outcomes. What’s important is to engage in a purpose that leads to outcomes that motivate us instead of drain us.

Think about what drives you. What really motivates you day after day? Maybe you love going into the office so you can go home and tell your family about your work at the end of the day. This kind of motivation can be drilled down further and can highlight a purpose. For instance, maybe going over your day with your family gives you an opportunity teach your children on important topics like work ethic and providing for the ones you love.

Consider following the “Big Why” exercise below in order to highlight your purpose.


Write down what you’re working for and what makes you excited about the life you’re living. This is personal to you and can be anything. It’s what motivates you. Don’t worry if there is more than one driving force listed. In actuality, it’s likely you’ll have a number of things that drive you. A lot of smaller “Whys” can add up to one very important “Big Why”. Then, using the graphic below, arrange your “Whys” so that the most important one is at the top. That Big Why is the most important thing for you to achieve, and it should guide you through all you do. In other words, you’ve just defined your purpose. As Gary and Jay have noted:

“If it is the right kind of Big Why, it will also tend to lend foundational support to all of your other whys. Like geese that fly in formation, the lead goose bears the brunt of the work and allows all the other geese to draft behind her. Your Big Why can and will do the same thing for all your other whys. It is the why that pulls all whys.”

Having a deeper sense of understanding about what gets us excited to get out of bed each and every day is a great place to focus our attention.

Another helpful tool that can be used to pinpoint your purpose is our My Purpose workbook. Take a moment to download it from our website. Then, use it to establish a vision for your life. It’s a step by step guide that can help you to pinpoint what drives you in every area of your life.

Knowing our purpose can come in handy. Not only can it propel you forward when times are good and you’re excited about all you’re accomplishing, but it can be your North Star when times are tough. Life doesn’t always go our way. In fact, it’s safe to say that we will all experience times when all bets are off. Knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing despite the obstacles in our path can provide both the motivation and inspiration we need to persevere in bad times.

Defining the Focusing Question

When it comes to defining your purpose, the questions we ask ourselves are vitally important to achieving the outcomes that will lead to bigger and better things. As we say in The ONE Thing:

“How we phrase the questions we ask determines the answers that eventually become our life.”

Whether it’s a question we’re asking of ourselves or others, the best questions are always those that are both open-ended and thought provoking because they require us to dig deeper for answers that really resonate with us.

The Focusing Question is no different. This question, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” is the question we live our lives by here at The ONE Thing. We ask it of ourselves on a daily basis in order to stay on track to accomplish our most important goals.

The Focusing Question provides us a glimpse into not just the big things, but into the important smaller answers as well. Its solution is two-fold.

First, it asks us to define the vision for our lives. When we ask it of ourselves, we can determine the direction we want to head. Our purpose influences the answers we provide here. In other words, purpose is our strategic compass in this scenario.

Next, the Focusing Question guides us to break down what needs to be done on an immediate and smaller scale in order to accomplish the high-level goal. After all, when you know the big place you’re heading, the Focusing Question helps you to determine the steps that must be taken along the way to get there.

Purpose comes in handy when it comes to the Focusing Question. When we apply it to the Focusing Question, our purpose can provide direction and simplicity that we otherwise likely lack.

Without purpose, our sense of clarity is probably a little fuzzy. We may know what we need to do to achieve our goals, but we don’t grasp why. However, when we consider our purpose while we ask ourselves this important question, we’ll have confidence that we’re heading in the right direction. We’ll feel good about getting out of bed each day to tackle the tasks in front of us, because we know that they are ultimately helping us get closer to satisfying our mission in life.

Knowing we are making the right choices and having conviction around what we do each day also helps us to make the right decisions. Even better, when we aren’t wishy-washy about the decisions we make, we’re more likely to get further with the outcomes.

This is where the 411 comes in. Once you know your purpose and you’ve applied the focusing question, let that lead you into identifying what you have to do now and when you will do it. The big annual goals you set will influence what you lay out to accomplish for the months and weeks ahead. And by putting it all in one place, you can track your progress toward your annual goals on a monthly and weekly basis.

Once you’ve drilled down to your weekly goals, you’ll want to time block to accomplish them. In other words, set a calendar appointment with yourself to get these important items done. Don’t let anything else creep into this period of time. It’s time you’ve put aside to do your most important things – as dictated by your purpose – so make sure you honor that time for yourself.

When you use your purpose along side the Focusing Question, you not only can figure out what you can do that will make everything else in your life easier or unnecessary, but also if what you are already doing falls in line with your purpose. When you evaluate your life with both purpose and the Focusing Question at the helm, you can make necessary adjustments to take your trajectory higher.

The actions you take in life are bound to be positive if they advance your “big why.” Rest assured when our purpose and our actions are in sync, our whole life just seems to hum. What changes have you made to your life lately after interlocking your purpose and the Focusing Question?