This past weekend I realized that I’ve been feeling a bit adrift lately. Rather than wanting to actually do anything, I am in a state of questioning life. This is not uncommon for me during the transition from summer relaxing to fall productivity. At this time of year I am constantly questioning and wondering “Why?” in all forms. Why am I doing the work I am doing? Why do I coach? Why do I write? Why do I live where I live? Why do I want this or that? Why don’t I want this or that? Why?
Reasons Provide Purpose
Why is “why?” so important? “Why” is the purpose being an action. It is the reason you do things. If you just “do” without asking “why?” you might be accomplishing a lot of things that you don’t really care about. That is the road to living an unsatisfying life. If instead, you ask “why?” and search for goals and actions and activities that have meaning to you, your path is much more fulfilling. If you make choices in your life for a reason that matters to you, you are living a purposeful life. And by purposeful, I mean purposeful to you. What others think is purposeful will likely be very different from what you find purposeful.
The Reasons Can Be For Immediate Goals Or For Long Term Goals
And don’t rule out “whys” like “I am doing this work because I want to pay the bills.” Working to pay the bills is a worthwhile purpose up to a point. If you are working to get some income while you are working towards a bigger goal (like to pay for school tuition or to pay for bills why you build your small business) then you have your “why.” However, if you have been doing the same work for years and can’t answer why other than money, you might want to do some more “why” questioning.
For instance, why have you chosen the specific work you are doing? Did you fall into the field and find that you loved it (and the paycheck)? Or did you fall into the field and find that you were really good at it even though you didn’t really love the work? Or did you deliberately seek out the field out of curiosity and interest? Consider your answers as a “check-in” for living on purpose right now.
Reflect On Why Your Work Is Important At Different Times In Your Life
Asking “why” is helpful no matter where you are along your life path. And it is helpful to compare your responses over time. Why you do something can be very different now than why you did it in the past and it may be very different again in the future. As an example, I have many clients who were very passionate about their work when they were in their 20s and 30s. They loved the field they were in and enjoyed learning and growing and leading and earning and being independent. Often part of the “why” they described was “ambition”—an excellent and purposeful driver. Try it yourself. Think back to the start of your career and ask yourself, “What were my dreams? Why did I do the work that I did?” You probably can describe in great detail your dreams and reasons for why you chose your career.
When I ask those same clients, now in their 50s and 60s, why they are doing the work they do now, they no longer have as many answers to the “whys” as they did when they were younger. Again, try it yourself. Ask yourself, “Why do I do my work?” The answers may range from “I love helping others” to “I’ve always done it” to “I’m good at it” or “It pays well.” When I ask my clients to compare the “whys” of their youth to the “whys” now they often see big differences or have big moments of clarity. What about you? How do your answers about how you feel about your work these days differ from when you were starting your career?
Purpose Can Change Over Time…Or Not
Probably you will experience one of two things from this thought exercise: 1) You forgot your youthful “whys” and you sense that you can be reinvigorated by those “whys”, or 2) your current “whys” are not meaningful enough for you to keep doing the same work. In either situation, though you may feel like you are not living a purposeful life, you have a choice to make. Will you do something to regain that sense of meaning in your work? Can you change your mindset and re-think why you are doing your work to re-align to your forgotten older purpose? Or can you change your work to align with your newfound purpose?
Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something About It!
Whatever you do, being complacent and doing something that doesn’t matter anymore to you will make your life seem lackluster. And though questioning “why” is certainly important for having your work be on purpose, questioning is just as important for how you spend your leisure time. Asking “why” is the key to uncovering motivation and drive and reason for living. Be purposeful by questioning everything as you create your life. You will be rewarded with greater joy and satisfaction.