Connecting With Your Why

Last week, I read an article from about ways to improve your life for tomorrow. I keep coming back to the first point– “connect with your why.”

Connecting with your why will help you to increase your energy levels, think more clearly and be able to overcome adversity and setbacks. Your why is the reason you do what you do on a daily basis. It excites you so you can barely sit still. When you discover your life’s purpose, your why, your life will never be the same again. There is no greater advantage than getting connected with your why.

That sounds really nice, right? I want to be so excited that I can barely sit still!

Well, here’s the thing about that. Finding your “why” involves, frankly, a lot of time and effort that most of us don’t want to invest. And I think we live in this world where we are pushed forward, pushed into choosing career paths at 18, and there’s no way that leads to a life that excites you.

I’ve read several times that your “why,” or your life’s work, or your purpose is seated at the intersection of your passion and your talent–two more things most of us don’t know. What are you really, innately good at? And what do you love to do most–what do you do in your spare time, or what would you do if money weren’t an object? Do you even remember what you like to do? Do you have enough spare time to figure it out? Are you in tune with your surroundings enough that you know what the world needs? All the sudden, this whole “finding your why” is sounding…not easy.

I often ask people if they love what they do; I rarely get good answers. I get things like “Well, I really enjoy talking to people and being helpful.” Or maybe, “Well, I was always really good at math.” Sorry, but I don’t think those people are connected to their why.

Before we had the word job, we had the word vocation. This is a word I really love. It comes for the Latin vocare, which means “to call or summon.” Your vocation is truly your calling. Do you feel that way about the thing you spend 40-60 hours a week doing? Does it engage you fully? More than that, do you feel like you’re contributing to the world  in a meaningful way?

This makes it sound like we all need to be doing Doctors Without Borders. That’s not my point, and also that’s not a sustainable economical model. Take an electrician, for example. The world definitely needs electricians. And let’s go ahead and say that this particular electrician is great at it and gets paid for it. We are 3/4 of the way to finding out the “why,” which is probably more than most of us can say. The “you love it” part of the above diagram is made up of passion and mission. I don’t know enough about electricity to say anything worthwhile about what an electrician enjoys about their job, but I feel like some of them may have pretty good answers for passion and mission.

But passion and mission are the sticking points, aren’t they? Why is it so hard to figure out what you love doing? As Steve Jobs said, “you’ll know when you find it,” which I think is infinitely wise. We have to be open and willing to listen to whatever the world is telling us (and, more importantly, what we’re telling ourselves). That’s scary. Listening to your inner voice can be hard. What’s it saying? What if it’s saying something you don’t want to hear? And worst of all, what if you can’t justify your passion into a plan for a vocation?

Well, no matter. I remember reading something, probably ten years ago, about a guy who wanted to be a writer but knew that he needed insurance and an income in the meantime. So he got a nursing degree and worked contingency. The rest of the time, he wrote. He made it work. He made real time to pursue his passion until he started selling his work. The kicker here is that you’ve got to be self-motivated, but hey. It can work, right? You can connect to your why without quitting your job tomorrow. Stephen King taught in a high school until he sold Carrie. He didn’t just say, “sorry, wife and kids. Gotta connect to my why and stop making a living.” As always, it comes down to living with intention. And, as always, easier said than done–but really worth it.


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