Like most physicians I have had little to no financial education during my years of schooling and training. Once I realized how important it was, I consumed various online courses and books created by physicians for physicians in the field of business, entrepreneurship, finance, income sources / investing. Amongst all the great information, there has been one recurring theme that has stood out to me: the inclusion of the concept of “What is your why?” / “Know your why.” I thought it was very impactful and important to have this as it is otherwise easy to become distracted, especially when finances and money becomes involved. As a physician that has spent a lot of time pondering the question of “why” (whether too much or not enough, I’m not sure) and works as a physician personal development and inner work coach and teacher I figured it would be worth putting some of my cents/sense in.
On my way to earn my Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma performance improvement methodology, one of the interesting tools I learned about was the “Five whys” to help discover the root cause of an ineffective or inefficient process. But why “FIVE whys?” Let’s take a look at a simple example:
– We are getting a lot of negative reviews from patients.
— (First) why?
– The time that patients are waiting to be seen by the doctor has increased in the last 6 months.
— (Second) why?
– The physicians are overextended and are doing work that they weren’t doing 6 months ago.
— (Third) why?
– There aren’t enough medical assistants right now.
— (Fourth) why?
– One of the MAs transferred to another department 6 months ago and was never replaced.
— (Fifth) Why?
– We don’t have regular evaluations of our staffing and workflow.
If we stop before asking enough “whys,” we may not reach the issue that really needs to be addressed and end up doing work that will not resolve the problem. It is the same with uncovering what one’s personal “why” is not only for anything related to money (earning money, finances, investing) but also for one’s more profound directives and reasons for living. We should be asking “What is your why⁵? (To the fifth power)” or saying “Know your why⁵ (to the fifth power). Here’s a tip: when asking why doesn’t get you deeper, another digging statement you can use is “And then what?” Let’s talk about a money example:
– I want to save more money.
– I want to pay off my debt/loans and invest in money for the future.
– I don’t want money and finances to be a limiting factor in how I live my life.
— Ok, let’s say you have enough money and it is no longer a limiting factor. And then what?
– I would spend more time with my loved ones.
— Ok, say you are spending as much time with your loved ones as you want. And then what?
– Hm, I would travel around the world.
– I want to have great experiences.
We could, and perhaps should, go on, maybe to even find the why¹⁰⁰⁰⁰ but you get the gist of it. Now ultimately I believe that your why is uniquely yours because no one else was you, no one else is you, and no one else will be you but you. But if we understand what people have in common and about their drives and motivations in life it makes it a lot easier to figure out your why.
According to the Enneagram model of human psychology and personality people have the same instinctual needs and predictable healthy and unhealthy ways we try to fill those needs. These instincts are built-in software that all people as organisms have but people have different degrees of attunement or prioritization of these instincts.
Self-preservation: living organisms have a built-in capacity and mechanism to survive and persevere. For people this includes everything from self-care and well-being, shelter, nourishment, the skills and know-how to perform everyday tasks, maintaining one’s space. The avoidance of pain and maintaining safety are connected with this instinct.
Sexual: next, living organisms have a built-in capacity and mechanism to transmit and receive information, genetic and otherwise. For people this includes everything from getting absorbed in adventure through one’s direct experiences or through stories, attracting and being attracted (or the opposite, repulsion), to the sexual experience. The seeking of pleasure, invigoration, novelty is connected with this instinct. Another way to look at this is how people just know there’s “chemistry.”
Social / adaptive: next, living organisms (but not all) have a built-in capacity and mechanism to connect and exist as a collective. For people this includes everything from “reading” moods and affects, contributing to others, participating as part of a smaller group or humanity in general, building connections on an intimate interpersonal or group basis.. The sense of connecting with and caring for others is connected with this instinct. This is what makes people go “aw” when they see cute babies and animals and simply be with others.
But not all people are great with all aspects of all three instincts. I’m sure you can recall someone who is great at taking care of themselves and their things but not great at all at reading other people or connecting with them; or how about those that give plenty of attention to new ventures and sexual experience but not attending to one’s self-care and home; or how about those that can focus solely on building and connecting but aren’t great at all with taking care of their home or having fun with other interests. (In fact, one great way to do personal development is to figure out how your instincts fare and work on the ones that need more attention.)
There is also something I call the Essential instinct or drive that seeks to fulfill the less tangible needs that relate more to one’s relationship with oneself, others, the world, and beyond on a more profound level. Terms like “realization” and “actualization” would be needs that fit the bill here.
Here are some examples using money and finances as the context:
- Self-preservation: Having the money to pay for all living expenses (nourishment, shelter, education, sense of security) for myself and my family.
- Sexual: Having the money to pay for entertainment I can be absorbed in or exciting experiences like travels and top-class food.
- Social: Having the money to donate to causes I believe in and to help out others.
Let’s talk about the context of a profession. A profession by definition is in the context of society; it is a role that one has and fulfills both the self-preservation need of earning money and the social need of contributing and connecting with others. Physicians are taught and trained in their education to attend to the social instinct commonly at the expense of self-care in the self-preservation instinct. This is why we so many physicians at a loss in their profession – their instinctual needs are not being fulfilled in a balanced way.
Back to the why. Every person has the same basic why, the fulfillment of these same needs: self-preservation, sexual, social, Essential. So now when someone asks you “What is your why?” you can answer “to fulfill my self-preservation, sexual, social, and Essential needs.” While true, this is void of the individuality that belongs to each single person. We have our beliefs, cultural influences, emotions, feelings, thoughts, values that uniquely colors how we seek out these needs.
So one train of questions that help define your own individual why is asking about what fulfilled needs looks like to you. In other words, answer these questions:
What does it mean for YOUR self-preservation instinct needs to be absolutely fulfilled?
- What kind of practical knowledge do you have?
- What kind of home do you live in and who do you live with?
- What kind of self-care are you doing?
What does it mean for YOUR sexual instinct needs to be absolutely fulfilled?
- What kind of interesting experiences are you attracted to and merging with?
- What kind of information are you transmitting or receiving from others?
- What kind of adventuring are you doing?
What does it mean for YOUR social instinct needs to be absolutely fulfilled?
- What kind of contribution are you offering to humanity?
- What kind of interactions are you having with others?
- What kind of connections are you making?
What does it mean for YOUR Essential needs to be absolutely fulfilled?
- What kind of realizations and understandings do you have about yourself, others and beyond?
- What kind of relationship do you have with Faith, Hope, Love?
Alternatively, you can go with the more encapsulating “What does your fulfilled and fulfilling life look like to you?”
~Dr. Francis Yoo, DO
Riso-Hudson Certified Enneagram Teacher