Finding Your Why: How a Simple Question Can Unlock a World of Potential
When you meet someone new, one of the first questions that always seem to come up is “What do you do”? It’s a great conversation starter and can lead to a lot of follow up questions, which can lead to more good conversation. One of the follow up questions I rarely hear is “Why”? When you really think about it, shouldn’t that be the first question we ask?
It seems like such a simple question but oftentimes it comes with a very complex answer. Young children use it all the time and for good reason. They are trying to figure out the world around them! Having them ask why over and over and over might start to wear the nerves a bit, but when asked in earnest it can open up a world of understanding. Even as adults, that question helps us navigate complex situations like starting at a new job, figuring out your credit score, or writing a will. With all of the different situations we ask the question WHY in, too few people seem to ask it in the most important one: why are we who we are?
Now that may seem like a really loaded question that is virtually impossible to answer, but I think that’s a good thing. The more we can ask that question, the better and more visceral the information we receive will be. Here’s an example of how a conversation between two people might go if we asked that question early on. I’ll skip the beginning pleasantries for the sake of brevity.
Person A: “I’m an elementary school teacher.”
Person B: “That’s cool! My father taught 4th grade his whole career. Why did you choose to teach?”
Person A: “Well, my mom taught high school but I knew I wanted to work with younger kids. It’s so inspiring to watch them learn and make connections.”
Person B: “I completely agree. I can’t believe how fast my youngest son is catching on to things. He seems to understand way too much for his age!”
Person A: “Isn’t that the best, though? I can’t think of many things more rewarding than helping kids learn and grow. The confidence they build from solving a hard math problem or the creativity they gain from writing their first short story is amazing to witness.”
In that short bit of conversation you can learn so much about Person A! It goes so much deeper than being a teacher for them. The drive they feel on a fundamental level to help children grow and succeed tells you a lot about who they are as a person. They just tapped into the core of their being in the first handful of minutes of the conversation, and they might not have even known it!
Now this is all well and good, but what’s the point? Am I just trying to help you become a master conversationalist? Of course not. What I’m driving at is much deeper, much closer to the essence of who you are as a person.
Ask yourself these questions and give yourself time to truly answer. Why are you who you are? Why do you get up in the morning? Why have you taken the path in life that you have?
The answers to these questions shouldn’t be unifaceted. They should bring out emotions and feelings that should seem almost impossible to describe. That when you start explaining them to someone, you should feel that you can’t find words powerful enough to get your message across. It’s like explaining the love you have for your family or the feeling you get when you read your favorite book or listen to your favorite song. These things touch us on such a deep level that we never really feel like we’ve done ourselves justice when we try to put them into words.
So here is my challenge to you: find your why.
Let it come from deep inside you and then let it shine out. It may take time and practice, but little by little it will start to drive your every day. People will see it in the things you do and the things you say. More importantly, so will you. When you have a clear why for who you are and what you do, decisions get easier to make. You can liken it to trusting your gut or listening to your heart. Your purpose will be clear and you’ll shine your own light on your own path.
It might be getting up early to exercise because your son is getting married later this year and your doctor said that if you want to see your grandchildren grow up, you need to start being healthier. It might be putting in overtime this month because your 25 year anniversary is coming up and you want to take that much deserved vacation with your spouse to celebrate your love for each other. Whatever it is, find your why and let it grow inside you.
My favorite part about my job is working with people and helping them become a better version of themselves. I’ve always been a people person and I thrive off social interaction. Every day I come to work, I get to interact with a bunch of different people in a multitude of ways. Sometimes that’s just a smile, sometimes it’s a simple “good morning”, and sometimes I get to spend a whole hour with someone while training or teaching a class. No matter how long I spend with someone or how much we interact, I get to impact their day. I have the ability to be a positive part of the day for every single person I see. It took me a long time to figure that out and truly take it to heart, but it has now permeated pretty much everything I do. I can change someone’s day in a second. That’s why I get out of bed every morning.
That’s my why. What’s yours?