404 From What To Why

From What To Why

Why am I doing this?

It’s a valid question to ask yearly, monthly and even daily.


More than ever, I see how important the WHY is in every aspect of my life.

Why am I working here?
Why did I get married?
Why do I follow Christ?

Why ask why?

Because the minute I no longer have a reason for the why is the moment that I get stuck in the what.

What isn’t nearly as interesting as why.

What do you do for a living?
What do you guys do for fun?
What church do you go to?

The what can never sustain me long-term. The what is short-sighted.

What happens when my job is for a paycheck.
What happens when activities mask real issues in my marriage.
What happens when I’m more concerned with theology than relationships.

Before long I get tired of the what happening. Then I quit.

If I plan on doing something significant with my life, I have to believe in the why.
If I plan on making this marriage last, I have to believe in the why.
If I plan on walking out my faith, I have to believe in the why.

What is a good distraction.

What can I sell on my blog?
What can I do to get more subscribers?
What will happen if I blog inconsistently for a few weeks?

Too much focus on the what distracts me from the why.

I write to encourage.
I write to learn.
I write to glorify God.
I write to connect.
I write to express myself.

If I’m no longer doing it for the why…

WHAT is the point.

Do you ever get stuck in the what?


  1. Desiree Burgess says:

    Then the heart of “what” we’re doing is connected to the person, not the action. Very true words right here.

  2. Interesting post. this is really useful. 😀
    thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Jeanette Miles says:

    The what is valuable, I just think it has to be framed correctly. Start asking the Why’s…. I’ve found that I burn out much quicker when I lose sight of why I’m doing something.
    Jeanette Miles recently posted..Many Mops

  4. Candice Aguilar says:

    Hey, that rhymed! And she’ll say “why?”.
    Candice Aguilar recently posted..Many Cures

  5. Your post brings up the point of why it’s important to ask the “why” questions rather than the “what” questions. That’s a good point to keep in mind when trying to keep things in perspective.

  6. Sometimes I get stuck in “What the heck?” moments…times that leave my head spinning. I’m glad the Father uses them to teach me more about His heart and purposes.
    Jay Cookingham (@strategicdad) recently posted..Making Room

  7. Totally get where you at coming from. I started thinking this way before I took my few month unintentional sebatical. Now that I have had a some time away from writing I remembered why I did it in the first place. Good world brother and I will be praying for you man. Hope to continue to see you around the blogosphere. You have always been such an encouragement.

    • Thank you so much, Adam. I’ve taken a bit of an unscheduled sabbatical myself. After getting married, it was just too much of a commitment to write consistently and build a strong foundation in my marriage at the same time.

      I’m slowly going to get back into things but I’m going to keep my priorities in order and make sure I understand each season that I’m in.

  8. Tony, thanks for this. It really made me think. In addition to the “what,” I think the “who” is also exceptionally important. “Who am I serving?” “Who is important to me?” “Who is my community?” I need to focus on these things more daily. “Why?” really can lead selfishness. I’m a first time reader of your blog. I’ll be back.
    Kevin Haggerty recently posted..Black Friday: Let the stampede begin!

    • You nailed it, Kevin. The who is a fantastic question. Someone else said that should be the next question you ask after why. Like you said, it helps keep us from too much self-focus.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I get caught up in the what all the time. Moving from task to task to task… one thing after another. I find that I have to intentionally stop and ask myself “why” every once in a while (or at least have people around me who will challenge me ask that question) because if I don’t, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
    dustin recently posted..A Place Only You Can Go

    • That’s so good, man. It’s important to have the right people around you to challenge you.

      I’ve had to ask some of those “why” questions lately and it’s causing me to make some big moves. It’s terrifying and exhilarating all at once!

  10. Doesn’t seem to get any easier, but God doesn’t change and helps us in our weakness. It’s easier in the short-term to look and evaluate ‘what,’ but if the purpose isn’t in front of us, we miss out on the eternal significance and that’s below what we were created for. Good word, Tony. Thanks.
    Jason Stasyszen recently posted..Miracles in 30 Minutes or Less

  11. What a great point. We’ve got to constantly keep remembering why we’re doing everything. It’s not just about continuing in our efforts but continuing in the right spirit and the right motivations.
    Loren Pinilis recently posted..How To Sow in Tears

  12. we were JUST talking about this last week… the importance of always hanging on to the why behind the what or we get hyperfocused on the wrong things. Great post!
    Jenny recently posted..Shades of Autumn | Brown

  13. Excellent point, Tony.
    It feels that the “why” questions force us to go deeper, force us to think.
    The “what” questions often have such quick answers that we don’t even have to think about it.

  14. Well said, Tony. Asking the “why” questions are so important to do every day. “What” is important, but the “why” gives “what” its power. If that makes any sense 🙂
    David Santistevan recently posted..The Christian’s Productivity Paradox

  15. “stuck in the what” … that’s sticky!

    more often that what or why i’ve gotten stuck in just plain ole indecisive… but i’m tackling this beast better than ever. Great Post Tony!!
    chris vonada recently posted..The Big Play: Going Deep with a Capital T

  16. The why is the reason you get out of bed.
    I meet a lot of people in missions that think walking in your vision is only doing what you love. Every job has parts that are not as fun. As a parent, no one enjoys changing diapers! But even when the what is mundane, it is driven by the why

    Good post!
    Chris Lautsbaugh recently posted..Grace is not a Girly Message

    • Great point, Chris. The what won’t sustain you in the long term. You’ll always run into those things that you don’t enjoy. If you don’t have that why, the vision, you’ll burn out and eventually quit.

  17. The “why” side of things…

    Good thoughts, bro…

    Maybe looking at the “why” side of my life right now will give me some insight I haven’t seen before.
    Jeremy Walker recently posted..Deliver Me…..

  18. I find myself getting stuck with the “What” a lot and forget about the “Why”. When this happens I make it a point to refocus my attention on the “Why” again. Great thoughts.
    Dan Black recently posted..The True Measure Of Success

  19. Absolutely! This past year has been a roller coaster of “what’s and why’s” – and every time I get caught in a “what” stage, I get stuck and frustrated. Honestly, I am in a “what” stage at the moment.

    I am in the beginnings of a completely new stage of my life. So many things of the old are passing away, and I find myself often looking over my shoulder trying to figure out if I really need to let those things pass on…or if I should carry them along with me.

    My heart knows better, but my mind gets the best of me.

    Thank you for this reminder that it’s time to quit looking for the “what” in this moment, and just remember why I even started doing this in the first place – and let God reveal to me the depth of that why.
    Marni Arnold recently posted..Crying, Pain & Life

    • I can so relate, Marni! One of the best books I read this year is called “Your Life In Rhythm” by Bruce Miller. He talked about the difference between finding rhythm and balance and why rhythm makes more sense.

      I’m learning to find the rhythm of marriage. I can’t balance everything I did before I was married and still be the husband I want to be. I have to recognize this season and that some things will have to change. Not that I have to give it up forever, I just have to choose to let it go for a season and not feel guilty about it.

  20. Kim Quinn says:

    I don’t think it’s a problem of the starting word of a question, but what comes after. We can get stuck in why questions just as easily. “Why did God allow my child to suffer?” , “Why do I have to go through all this?” are frequent questions that can bog me down. On the other hand “What” questions can be good. “What does God want me to do?”, “What can I learn about Him in this circumstance?” So it’s not the opening word of a question that I worry about so much as what follows after and am I willing to ask.

    • Excellent comment, Kim! I think you got to the core of what I was trying to say. Ultimately it is a heart issue above a works issue.

      Whatever question you asks needs to be driven by the right motives to ultimately be beneficial.

  21. Great post, Tony!

    When I wrote my blog post about not wanting to “settle down”, this was the point I was trying to make. I wrote about how sometimes the routine of everyday life can take away our spontaniety and adventurous spirit. While I love and need routine in my life, it’s the “why” behind the routine that is the most important. If I do things simply because I am “supposed” (the what) to I will either burn out for lack of motivation, or I will keep doing what I do and move through life like a zombie (*high five for zombie reference!). If I know why I do what I do, then I am invested.
    Katie M recently posted..Kick the Tires…

  22. Battling what’s in life seems to be a constant dilemma. And until today, I’ve never really thought about ‘what’ vs. ‘why.’ In pondering it, asking ‘why?’ is more inspiring, and open-ended, even in the simplest of questions; “What are you writing?” or “Why are you writing?”

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Jakz recently posted..the way I see things…

    • Why is definitely more inspiring, if not terrifying. I’ve had to ask myself why and not been pleased with the answer. So I either have to settle with the what or get off my butt and so something about it!

  23. what does sound like a short term inventory, and why a mission statement. i’d rather have the mission than a bunch of goods on my hand that I can’t move (or count)- that’s probably a holdover from my days in the gift shop. ugh
    kristinherdy recently posted..Kristin Herdy’s Quest for the Holy Landfill

    • YES! That’s a great way to put it, Kristin. I read a blog by Seth Godin yesterday talking about how plans are good but missions are better because ultimately a plan will fail but a mission will last.

  24. I get stuck in the “what” a lot. I’m such a task-oriented person that it’s easy for me to focus on what’s in front of me, what needs to be done, rather than why I’m doing it.

    Great post Tony!
    Jason Vana recently posted..Be Still

    • Great point, Jason. I’m task-oriented as well so it’s easy to focus solely on the what and forgetting the why. I’ve had to do that recently with my job and I’m preparing to do something about it.

  25. Sometimes. I think we all do. It’s great to keep asking those questions no matter where we are on our journey or how old we are.
    Cindy Holman recently posted..Deferring To The One Not Sleep Challenged

  26. As a boy growing up – the pastor would say so very often – Do not ask Why, ask What. It has been a question that rings through my head a lot when dealing with pretty much everything in my life. I think in some areas what is a much more valid question than Why. Like when you are going through a trial in life – What can I learn is a much more helpful question than Why are you do this too me God. There are other times though that I see the greater value in asking Why. Those times I think you highlight here very well. I just do not think we should throw the What out with the bathwater. 🙂
    Jim F recently posted..How Do Leaders Lose Followers Hearts?

    • Loving your perspective, Jim. I like to see the other side too.

      I see the value of what but I also experienced how that has negatively affected my life without the why.

      By feeling like I wasn’t allowed to ask why, I followed/obeyed because of duty. I never understood why so I just did “what” was expected of me.

      I think asking why leads to who (see Randy’s comment). And then understanding who and why leads us to what. Then the heart of “what” we’re doing is connected to the person, not the action.

      The what is valuable, I just think it has to be framed correctly.

  27. I’ve found that if we don’t have an answer for the “why” we have become religious. Religious in just doing. Same with life. Why am I here? Do I live, or simply exist?

    Here is an experiment. Ask people in church why they go to church. Some can’t even answer that question. They just do because “that’s what I’m supposed to be doing”. 🙂
    Moe recently posted..The Christian Blogger’s Influence

    • You’re not kidding. I can’t tell you how many people who “do” church because that’s just what they are taught.

      Some people are even afraid of asking God why but I think that’s what He loves. When we ask why and get His answer, we are more connected to His heart rather than just to His law.

  28. I think we all get stuck in the what. The why is so much more interesting but can be scary so we stick with the what. Plus if we are the ones asking what, then we don’t have to get deep with the other person.
    April recently posted..Mission Monday: Hello Somebody

  29. Love this. Very true words right here. Get caught up in this most every day.
    Joe Knight recently posted..Monday Morning Musings

  30. Every. Single. Day.

    Good stuff!
    Knox McCoy recently posted..The Monday Morning Meatloaf

  31. It’s so funny that you mention Why…

    I have to admit that when I see a question and then followed by the “and why” it kinda freaks me out either because i’m lazy and don’t want to think about the why…becomes i’m comfortable just answering the what…

    and thats just it…it more convienent and comfortable to just stay in the what…

    we need to start breaking away from these one answer questions and start adding the Why…

    Oh, what church do you go to? And Why?

    Who do you hand out with? And Why?

    Do you Love your wife? and Why?

    It’s hard to raise kids isn’t it? Why do you think that is?

    Start asking the Why’s….
    Arny recently posted..The Blogging Knights of the Square Table

    • The why isn’t an easy question to answer. Even when you feel like you’ve answered it before.

      Katie does this to me all the time. I’ll say “I love you”. And she’ll say “why?”. It may not sound like much but it really makes me think about it every time. Otherwise, I can easily forget why.

  32. Seems, for guys, the “what” is most important because it is tied to our identity. “What do you do for a living?” Problem is, when the “what” goes away, so does the identity…we’re left empty and searching for something to quickly plug in to that gaping hole.

    When we answer the “why,” the “what” becomes less important…for there are a number of “whats” that can fulfill the “why.” When we get the “why” right…the “who” becomes the ultimate question to answer with the resounding answer: “Jesus” (sounds cliche and like the Sunday School answer, but it’s true…right?)

    • That’s a great tie-in to identity, Randy. It’s not that the what isn’t important, it’s just that it can easily overshadow the why if we let it.

      I love your last line here. Jesus is NEVER cliche. Great comment!

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