Why do you do what you do? Have you ever been asked that? People will ask what you do – for a living. They may ask you who you work for, where you work, when you started or how long you have worked there, and if you have an unfamiliar job or a difficult workplace how you do it. But it is the rare insightful person who will ask why. And it is a rare person who asks themselves why they do the work they do.
And why is that? Do you remember when you were a kid – or when you are around kids – what was the most asked question on their lips? Why, of course. Why is the sky blue? Why don’t all kids look like me? Why do I have to go to school, go to bed, eat my vegetables, etc? And to many answers, their response is also ‘why?” They want to know, and unfortunately a lot of time after repeated questions – especially about behavior issues – they get a response from parents or teachers of “because I said so”. If they get this response too often they may stop asking, lose their curiosity, and become drones, simply doing just what they are told.
For most of us, it’s not quite that dire, but we do tend to lose our focus and drive sometimes. We do what we can to survive, sometimes end up in jobs that, while often sufficiently interesting and often filled with fellow workers we like, is not our passion. Why do you work? To survive, would be our response.
Many companies try to motivate their workers by having mottos, mission statements, highlighted values and goals. This does help – I was excited to get to work for my current company because I could identify with what their stated values were. I am still proud to work for the company, but I find my real passion is outside of work, through my involvement in Toastmasters -more about that later.
Simon Sinek wrote a book years ago called Begin with Why. He said that for businesses, people don’t buy what you do or how you do it, but why you do it. He advised organizations to identify that” why” to improve their sales and production. He said the same is true for people. You have to be competent but to do the best you need to identify your “why?”. I read this during the pandemic and it resonated with me. He instructed people to write down a series of accomplishments and identify the commonalities – the driving force behind those.
I did that and came up with my “why?”. In my Toastmaster icebreaker – my initial “this is me” speech – I identified myself as experimenter, explorer, and expressionist. I also repeat the mantra that everyone has stories to tell and that we need to hear them share those stories. Thus my “why?” is ” I want to inspire others to explore, experiment, and express their discoveries, their values, and their stories so that together we can make this world a better place”
This is what drives me – to see the light go on in people’s eyes, to have them respond “I never thought of it that way”. Not just to entertain, though that is fun too, but to inspire. Think about what you do, especially when you feel empowered, and try to identify your why. I will expand on this theme in my next series of posts. In the meantime, I would advise you to find a copy of Simon’s book and learn about his method of discovering your why.