What’s My Motivation? The Shift from Reason to Purpose. ~ Deborah Williamson

Via elephant journal
on Jun 2, 2012
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Photo credit: Courtney Carmody

Purpose. Reason. Two words with similar meaning.

But in the context of living an inspired life, they can create very different realities.

Attendees of my trainings around the world hear me toss around the word contribution in almost every discussion.


As a longtime Yoga Life Coach, I’ve seen lives derailed/stalled when clients don’t understand their personal contribution in relationships or careers.

In exploring what motivates us, many people list reasons instead of sharing the purpose behind life choices and actions.

What’s the difference? Here’s my take and why it matters:

Reasons = how does this choice affect me?

When asked for the reasons behind your actions, behaviors or choices, it’s likely that you list what you will get or not get as a result of the choice.

For example:

“I’m changing jobs for a higher salary.”

(I get more money).


“I am filing this report so my boss won’t think I’m not working hard enough.”

(I will not get grief).

Reasons describe the world of you and your beliefs about how people perceive you. They are often listed in past and future tense. With reasons, you try to obtain what you don’t have (lack) or try to avoid what you don’t want to have (fear).

Purpose = how does this choice elevate the world/others?

When you have a clear purpose for your actions and choices, you believe that what you do and who you are makes a difference. Instead of “what do I get?” you are constantly asking the question “what can I give right now?”

Purpose describes how we elevate the world together.

The actions inspired by purpose may show up in different forms, but the underlying purpose, once discovered, remains much the same:

“I can make the world better.”

Living from a purpose, you don’t care what people think of you.

You just care about them.

How can this bring about the difference between a happy life and one barely lived?

Living and choosing from purpose allows us to live based on what’s right in front of us, instead of trying to make decisions based on what we think might happen or some mistake we made years ago in the third grade.

Reasons involve guessing, waiting and comparing and inevitably coming up short when the future shows up not as we expected.

Want to test it out? Try this:

(1) Think of an area of your life where you feel frustrated and write it down at the top of a piece of paper.

(2) List the reasons you are involved with this particular choice.

(3) Take a few moments to evaluate how this action or choice affects or helps others (purpose) and write these things down.

(4) Create a new motivational sentence based on your answers to question three, i.e., “I am doing ______ because I can help/contribute _______ to ________.”

How do you feel now?

This simple tool is the way out of “being stuck.” It’s impossible to stay stuck if you are in contribution.

You may still work hard, but exhaustion will shift into endless energy and limitless ideas.

With purpose, life is simple.

We simply ask again, “What can I give?”

The answer to that question is a clearly defined purpose that reshapes how you live your entire life – from simple interactions with the people around you to how you serve the world.

So the next time you find yourself shouting, “what’s my motivation?” take a few seconds to shift fear/lack into contribution and reasons into purpose.

It’s amazing how easy life gets when you’re clear on how you matter and how you can contribute with every choice.

I bet you’ll never mistake reason for purpose again.


 Deborah (Debbie) Williamson has helped thousands to create the lives and careers of their dreams as an educator and coach for over 25 years. Founder of the internationally recognized Yoga Life Coach™ Certification program, co—founder of LIVELOVETEACH, (http://www.liveloveteach.com/) and a well-loved Vinyasa teacher, Debbie splits her time between international travel and running her thriving Wisconsin yoga studio, Midwest Power Yoga, with husband Mark and their two dogs. Her new book, The Yoga Body Cleanse, is due out in 2012. Find Debbie at http://wildabundantlife.com/.

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Editor: Jamie Morgan



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7 Responses to “What’s My Motivation? The Shift from Reason to Purpose. ~ Deborah Williamson”

  1. […] is featured again today on elephant journal with her new article, What’s My Motivation – the Shift from Reason to Purpose. We need your help to put this article on the […]

  2. […] What’s My Motivation? The Shift from Reason to Purpose. ~ Deborah Williamson (elephantjournal.com) […]

  3. Janet says:

    I think this is an invaluable article! A few years back I decided to evaluate changing careers. I was stuck for almost 2 years trying to figure out what was the "right" thing to do. All the "reasons", as Debbie so clearly explains, kept me continuing to evaluate in complete fear. Once I took the time to evaluate what was my overall purpose the choice became crystal clear. I was able to move into something new with renewed confidence and passion and, most importantly, with peace. What I love about Debbie's approach is that there is simplicity to it. Your purpose doesn't have to be something monumental and it comes from a unique you. The beauty about knowing your purpose and focusing on contribution is that you never lose and it can apply to all aspects of your life! Debbie, thank you for the article and for living your life as a true example of what you've written!

  4. […] realized that my overarching issue or question was “What is my purpose? What’s getting me up every morning? What’s driving me to create, motiving me forwards and […]

  5. […] What motivates you? What inspires you? Pick an occupation that will make you want to get out of bed in the morning. You should get excited just thinking about it. […]

  6. […] Answers to the Age Old Question: So What Do You DO? How to Life Coach Kids & Teenagers The Shift from Reason to Purpose – Debbie on Elephant Journal Coaching to the Higher […]

  7. Janet, thank you so much for the comment and for sharing your example!