Forget Your ‘Why’ Until You Figure This Out

‘Where’ matters more than ‘Why’ in the hierarchy of W questions.

Photo by Pavel L on Unsplash
“Where is the most important of the 5 W Questions. When you are in your “Where” you can fearlessly become “Who” you are to fully live “Why” you are here. Determine your “Where,” then your “Who,” then your “Why”.” 
― Diana Dentinger

A quick Google search shows me that Diana Dentinger, who I’ve never heard of, is a life coach. She offers personality tests on her blog and has some books on Amazon.

Whoever she is, whatever she does, this is the first time I’ve ever seen someone suggest that the most important question is ‘Where?’

If you spend anytime in the online-entrepreneur world, you’ll run into the idea that the only question out there that matters at all is ‘Why?’ Find your WHY. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Figure that out, the gurus say, and everything will fall into place.

It started with Simon Sinek and a viral TED talk.

But no one ever, ever (expect for Diana Detinger) talks about how important it is to know your WHERE.

I’ve literally never thought about it before. Except six months ago, I displaced myself. I moved from Nevada, where I lived since I was fourteen, to Pennsylvania, where I had never even been.

I’m homesick and out of place. I miss the sun and the desert and my mountains.

I feel like I’ve moved to the moon. Somewhere utterly alien.

And having my ‘Where’ out of whack has thrown everything off kilter.

I’ve spent all winter hiding out in my bedroom. I literally get lost every time I leave my house (even after six month.) I can’t find a coffee shop I like to work at. I haven’t made any friends.

The idea that ‘Where’ is the most important thing makes everything make sense. After years of being told and believing that my ‘Why’ is the only thing that matters, this takes my breath away.

It isn’t just that I’m so far from home. It’s that I haven’t let myself settle in where I am. We have a temporary lease. We aren’t sure if we’re staying. We don’t know if Ruby will get into the art school she’s auditioning for.

I haven’t found a coffee shop I like to work at. Or a church I’m comfortable attending. Or a hairdresser. I haven’t let myself start a garden, because I don’t know if we’ll be here through the summer.

If we’d decided to spend six months or a year in this little town, I could settle into that. But we haven’t done that either. It’s all just up in the air and that isn’t working for me very well.

Think about it this way. Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs puts shelter at the very base. When your ‘Where’ feels threatened or unsettled or not right, everything else comes to a screeching halt.

‘Who’ is in the center — in social belonging and self-esteem.

‘Why’ is way up at the top of that hierarchy. The tippy top. You can’t skip your way up there, if your base is unstable.

‘Where’ matters. A lot. Way more than I knew six months ago.


Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.