What is your why?
I recently started a new job and in the past few months, countless people have asked me the question ‘tell me about this new gig.” The conversation is so frequent for me that my answer is virtually cued up on auto repeat. But last week, that familiar conversation took an unfamiliar twist. Instead of asking about my new position or company, my friend asked “Why did you take this job?” While I did have an answer, I must admit that the question gave me pause for thought.
What is the what?
When it comes to new ventures, goals, and opportunities, the tendency is to spend all of our time on the ‘what’ or ‘how’ - What is your goal, what path will you take to reach your goal, and what steps will you take first. Certainly what (or how to) questions are both valid and instructional. After all you can’t get to your destination without proper directions. As someone who has made the mistake of skipping over the instructions before, what and how are pretty important. Case in point, when I was 15 years old and first took the drivers permit test, I thought I could just bypass actually reading the driver’s manual and take the written test. ‘How hard can it be?’ I naively thought. I failed the test. Suffice to say, what and how are pretty darn important where it comes to proficiency of just about anything.
Why ask why?
Establishing the what is great when there is a direct path to a specific goal. But defining the what and how doesn’t always get you to your correct destination. Many of life’s most important endeavors fall in undefined murky waters. There isn’t necessarily a precise map for success where it comes to how to love better, hate less, express more compassion, offer humility, or get closer to your higher power. What and how don’t always work when you’ve lost your confidence or when you’re in a slump. Real growth and progress hinges on the capacity to sit with the question of why - why am I unhappy, overweight, or depressed. If you haven’t established your why, you’re just as likely to veer of course or repeat the same mistakes even if you’ve developed what you think is a foolproof plan. Making a plan without a why is like building a house without a foundation. The answer to why is your stable ground and is summated by one word more than any other - purpose.
When we look for answers, culturally we are encouraged to look for answers outside ourselves. Why am I unhappy is answered with ‘because I don’t possess love, money, or the right job.’ We are bombarded with messages in the media that happiness is equated to being leaner, richer, or more successful. These over simplified answers quickly become convenient what and how plans for many - online dating to find love, a fad diet to lose weight, or the latest scheme to make money. The real why never factors in. Why requires digging deep. You’ll know you’re getting close when it starts to get uncomfortable – REAL uncomfortable. Why am I unhappy might ultimately answered with because I have never dealt with a significant loss. ‘Why am I overweight?’ might be answered with unearthing a childhood trauma. If you’re stuck on how and what, here’s a few thoughts on finding your why -
*Ask others close to you what they see. If you’re willing to truly listen, some of your best moments of clarity can come about from the observations and advice of others who can see clearly what you can’t.
*Look for clues in dreams, synchronicities, and reoccurring events in your life. If the same themes and mistakes keep popping up, there’s likely a pretty big ‘why’ that needs addressing.
*Don’t sweat the small stuff. Small stuff can easily take your eye off the ball and cause anger, irritation, and even contempt. Perhaps the most famous bumper sticker states simply “shit happens.” Next time someone cuts you off in traffic, says something snarky to you, or you’re stuck in a long line, instead of reacting, shrug it off and remember the sticker!
*Look for clues in your childhood. Everyone is born with special gifts, unique talents, and desires. Watch a two-year-old play, a four-year-old draw, a six-year-old dance and it’s clear that everyone possesses different individual ability and distinctive personality. If you’re stuck on now, rediscovering your authenticity might be question of looking back – way back.
As someone who has spent many years in and around the arenas of sport and fitness, most of the energy tends to be consumed in the what - what does your goal look like and how will you get there? Lost in the shuffle is the most important question you can ask yourself – what is your why?