Finding Our Why
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2023
I’ll never forget that first day of work—starting with a new suit and my shiny wing tips, as I carried a briefcase—filled with (for whatever reason) nothing but a handful of freshly sharpened pencils and a yellow legal pad.
After all, I HAD to make it look good, right?
However, hours after heading into my first job out of college, ready to take on the world, the briefcase was hastily tossed under a desk amid a sea of cubicles, and my suit coat was slung over a folding metal chair.
My first official assignment was awarded … moving boxes from one storage room to another. Ugh!
This memory flooded me a couple of weeks ago when I stepped into a conference room filled with our new class of interns. You could feel their freshness and eagerness—the energy and excitement of possibility.
At the beginning of the session, I asked, “Why are we here?” The answers varied, but the theme was common—learning and trying, exploring and experiencing. Then, shortly after the meeting concluded, as I got coffee in the office kitchen, I ran into one of the interns.
That’s when I asked the question. “So, why are you here?”
First came the smile, then a shrug of the shoulders. “I guess I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.”
An honest answer to a pretty big question—and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Doesn’t it apply to all of us—whether we’re just starting our online business, in the throes of our WA journey, or even entering the last stage and thinking of retirement?
These are all the experiences that shape us in between. Sometimes we will conquer the new and different, and sometimes our ambitious perceptions may not meet reality.
We are all searching for our why.
And this has become even more relevant over the past few years—prompting people to reflect on how (and if) their life and work bring meaning.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know how easy it is to forget the “why.” We too often focus instead on “what” must be accomplished—or jump ahead to the strategy of “how” to get there.
But the real question is always why.
So, when we lose sight of our why, all it takes is a glance back at those momentous first days—and we recall what uplifted, inspired, and motivated us. Walking through the gates of Disneyland for the first time … into a museum to view awe-inspiring art in person … or gazing up at the spires of a historic building.
Our why is a constant even as everything else morphs and changes.
Here are some additional thoughts:
Minding the motivation gap. Not all motivation is created equal. Think of it this way: Intrinsic gets you up in the morning. Extrinsic is what the world delivers to you during the day.
Intrinsic is the most powerful; People tend to do more when motivated by excitement, personal satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. Create an environment that surrounds you of learning, growing, and developing—then get out of the way.
Tapping discretionary energy. It starts when our personal why gets activated—and we feel a solid connection to the mission and vision of the plan or goal we set. That’s when we’re more likely to give our all. We unleash our discretionary energy—that currency of commitment that can be withheld or spent freely.
Most people want to grow, learn, and be part of something bigger than themselves. All these deep desires are at the core of our why. In other words, when we are happy, we’re motivated; when we’re motivated, we outperform.
That’s why why matters.
What is your why?