What’s Your “Why”?


It’s a simple enough question, but often the hardest to answer and understand. For example, when a child asks, “why is the sky blue?”, there’s a scientific answer they’re likely to not understand. But they’ll look at you, maybe give a little nod of their tiny head, and say, “oh”, and move on. Change that question just slightly to, “why is there a sky?”, and the answers span science, religion, and a multitude of reasoning that usually ends with more questions.

It can be an annoying question, too. From the insistent repetition of a toddler curious about their new world to a teenager questioning restrictions in theirs, it can try our patience as we offer answers ranging from the truth to simply, “because I said so.” A child’s Why is specific to them; a question to satisfy an immediate need to know.

An adult’s Why is very different. Ours have multi-level and long-range meanings. When we ask “why,” we are analyzing information, usually from more than one source, to make a decision (sometimes right, sometimes wrong) or to understand a particular situation. Why purchase that make and model of car? Why protest hate with hate?

In our careers, our Why is the driving force behind what we do. Our responses to why we choose a college or training program (if either), or why we choose being an employee vs. an employer, are based on several factors. Money is usually a big one. You either can or can’t afford to go to school or open your own business. And when you get tied down with bills (kids, mortgage, cars, etc.) you may have to choose between a job you don’t like but pays enough, or supplementing an under-paying job you like with a “side hustle” (i.e., UBER, direct sales, reciting “do you want fries with that?”, etc.).

So, what’s your Why? Have you ever said out loud why you do what you do? Not what you do, the Why. Have you ever written it down? It’s harder than you think. Try it. Grab a piece of paper and pencil (because you’re going to make changes) and write down your Why. In one sentence only, explain why you do what you do. If you work, why do you work there. If you volunteer, why that organization.

There’s one rule: you cannot mention money. We don’t work to stockpile money. Money is a tool to enable other goals (i.e., time freedom, material things like cars, houses, vacations, peace of mind and security, etc.).  So, money cannot be your Why.

If you struggle to define your Why, then spend some time thinking about it. After a while, write down what you have and put it in a place you can see it and read it often. Visualization is a well-promoted practice from all the self-improvement gurus. Putting up pictures of things you want in plain sight is motivational. The same is true for our Why. By thinking about it daily we can fine tune it as needed. We can reword it to match changes in our lives; we can expand or condense it to match our goals, our desires, and our growth.

So I’ll ask again…what’s your Why?

About Author: jspaone

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