What is Your Why

    When young children are matriculating through school, they are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. They typically answer with some job they see on TV, or one that is romanticized in popular culture. These can range from doctor to lawyer to professional athlete to astronaut. In addition, these careers are picked because they look exciting and fulfilling….and lucrative. As we grow older, those three perks are the reasons many of us pick our chosen careers. We are told to take a job that makes up happy and makes us rich. But what if those two things can’t coincide? What happens then? Here is where your “Why” comes in.

I recently attended a leadership institute for rising professionals in my field, which focused on using our current strengths to create stronger leaders. One of the major things we discussed was why we enjoy our job. We had to write down the things that make us get up in the morning (work or personal). These items were listed in order of importance and placed aside. Examples of work items could include:

  • Competitive work environment
  • Assisting with the growth and well-being of student athletes
  • Working on a college campus
  • Paycheck

We then had to write out our personal and professional goals in time ranges of 1, 5, 10, and 15 years. Once we made these two lists, we then had to put them side by side and look for conflicts. If we enjoy one aspect of our current position, but will lose it, if we achieve the promotion in our 5 year goal list, where do we fill that gap? We now knew our “Why”, but we had to realize how important our “Why” was to each of us. What’s more important to me? Money? Flexibility? Power? Will I leave a job in a location I love to make more money? A good friend once told me that there are three important aspects of a job: location, money and loving what you do. A bad job will give you one aspect. An adequate job will get you two out of three aspects. A great job will give you all three. The important question is how long can you survive a bad or adequate job while you wait on the great job?

So how can this post help you? Do yourself a favor and go through the exercise I discussed earlier.

  1. Write out the 5 things in order of importance that make you get out of bed every day in your current position (or future position if you are a college student). These 5 reasons are your “Why”
  2. Write out goals for 1, 5, 10 and 15 years.
  3. If these goals include new work positions, write out the new responsibilities for these jobs
  4. Take a look at the lists, figure out if your new responsibilities will conflict with or align with your “Why”.
  5. Use the differences or similarities to examine your goals. Are you goals basic achievements you’ve had since you were 5 because someone told you that’s what you should do? Or do your goals fit you, and will they actually make you happy?
  6. Take time to figure if each individual “Why” is going to get you to your goals. If not, what do you need to do to add them to your current job? Is it time to ask for new responsibilities?
  7. Use these lists to really figure out what is important. Is there a pattern in the 5 things I like about my job? Could I find these 5 things in a different industry, or am I right where I need to be? If you listed location at #1, does that mean you could change positions in your city and be even happier?

Try out these 7 steps and stay tuned for Part 2. In that post we’ll discuss weaving your personal and professional “Why” together.