Defining your Why

Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why is anyone doing what they are doing? Before we tumble down the rabbit hole of existential crisis (which I fall down frequently, but that’s not the point), I want to talk about defining why I do what I do.

I know what my “why” is. I have had a defined “why” for years, but I only recently have been able to succinctly put it into an easy to share phrase:

“I am here to give of myself.”

This is the basic tenant of my life. This is not my only “why” but it is certainly one of them.

I am most happy when I am giving. Sometimes my friends will joke when I tell them what I am doing on the weekend, and they’ll laugh that I am going from my job (where I work for a kid centered non-profit), to volunteer (at a different kid centered non-profit).

When I find myself feeling down, or that I can’t pull myself out of a funk, I look to this phrase. Am I giving of my time? Am I enriching the world with the knowledge or insight I have? If I have strayed, then that means that I end up feeling less than my best.

My “why” wasn’t something I came to this year, or last, but something I’ve been following for years. I just didn’t know it.

And I came to it by asking myself, repeatedly, one question:

“Why do you want to do what you are doing?”

And usually when it is boiled down to the base of the question, I usually come back to “I want to give of my time.”

For example, a couple months ago, I found myself with a pang in my heart to teach civics to the local Girl Scout council. I haven’t made any action on this endeavor as of yet, but I want to use this desire to illustrate a point.

Upon the first “why” I came up with, “Because civics is important, and I have the experience and knowledge to teach this.” Upon a second “why,” I came up with, “because I was a Girl Scout, and I want to give back to the local council.” Bingo. Within the second ask of, “why do you want to do this?” I hit the key word, “give.” It usually takes two or three rounds to get there.

And this pattern led to the phraseology above, “I am here to give of myself.”

You might define your “why” as kindness, empathy, service, innovation, or any number or other things. Or you may find the opposite to be true, where you start with the base of a why, and flesh out your life focused on that word. It goes both ways.

Why do you do what you do? Let me know in a comment below.

I am blogging every day in August to celebrate my birthday. You can follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.

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