Many people ask me WHAT I do for a living. But not many people ask me WHY I’ve chosen to do what I do. You know…what the bigger reason is. I could have chosen to do virtually anything, so why am I doing what I do?
Perhaps no one asks because asking ‘why?’ is a more personal question, and in some cases, people don’t really want personal answers. But if you do want to get to know someone (and that someone could be yourself), this is a question that can lead to much richer connections, especially when asked from a place of curiosity rather than judgment.
While of course the ‘what’ is relevant to someone understanding my business at a high-level and is a great place to start a conversation, the ‘why’ is relevant to someone understanding me at a more personal level, allowing us to relate more as people than employees.
It is for that reason that I find why you’re doing what you do to be infinitely more interesting than merely listing off your day-to-day responsibilities and ending it there. It is also undoubtedly a much quicker way to connect with and understand someone.
At the core, all jobs serve a pretty similar high-level function, varied and nuanced in when/where/how that function is executed and the market it serves, but generally jobs are created to fulfill a need or want that people have and that they are (or someone on their behalf is) willing to pay for.
Whether the effort of the job is put toward neatly manicured lawns, high-performing stock portfolios, educated children, delicious meals, development of software to automate processes, healthy bodies, or anything you can possibly imagine, each of our jobs exist to serve some want or need greater than ourselves, to serve our clients.
I’m sure you agree this is obvious, but I highlight this to emphasize the reason I find the WHY so interesting. Why did you choose to do one thing over another, and what is it that keeps you choosing over and over every day to show up?
Is it fulfilling your need to help others? Is it about paying the bills? Is it to follow your dreams? Or someone else’s? What is your ‘why’? To be clear, this isn’t about shaming anyone’s ‘why’. In fact, I think getting clear on your ‘why’ is the best way to bring it out into the open, where things that don’t feel shameful live.
Maybe you’re feeling ‘meh’ about your job lately but getting clear on your ‘why’ reinvigorates your efforts and gets you excited about what you’re doing. Or perhaps your ‘why’ could indicate that there are some shifts you need to make to improve your situation or completely change things altogether. Or maybe for you, passions are pursued outside of work and your job is simply a way to support yourself. All good.
This is not meant to be a quiz; there’s no right answer, it’s about getting to know yourself better.
As for my own personal experience, I used to take a TON of pride in my ‘what’ and regularly took a pass on discussing the ‘why’ too much because I had worked my tail off for years to be able to secure and then proudly announce the prestigious global corporation I worked for. For me, this corporate label served to imply some level of tacit understanding for the other person regarding my level of intelligence, worth, and salary, thereby securing the approval I desired and reduced the questions asked.
I depended heavily on the ‘what’ to fulfill me, to give me a sense of meaning and purpose. If other people were impressed, it means I’m doing it ‘right’…right?
I wanted my title and brand name to speak FOR me. To mean to other people the things that I believed they meant. It was a badge I wore to avoid going too deeply into who I was…my ‘why’. As soon as someone began asking me what felt like too many questions beyond the basic ‘what do you do for a living?’, I would cringe inside. Thoughts like ‘ugh, do we REALLY have to talk about work right now?!’ would go through my head.
I was avoiding facing my ‘why’ because I had a lingering suspicion that it wasn’t something I would be proud of or happy to think about. Turns out, my ‘why’ was that it felt safe, lucrative, widely-accepted and applauded, as though I was good enough, that I had successfully met or surpassed expectations, and that it made tangible use of what I majored in at college.
I’m certainly NOT saying that those things are bad things to want, but for me, that particular combination of reasons didn’t feel good or put a smile on my face. There was nothing about fulfillment, purpose, empowerment, freedom, or deep, honest connections with my clients – all things that were important to me. And given that I spent many, many hours each week at my job, I decided to begin approaching things a bit differently.
To be clear, I didn’t have this thought once and then quit my job the next day because for me this wasn’t about, ‘oh well, this isn’t a fit, so let’s move on!” I realized that I wanted to go after what I DID want, not simply run away from what I didn’t, so I had to get clear. I continued to ask myself what I wanted and who I wanted to become as a person and began to introduce more and more of that into my life.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper into my ‘why’. The reason I’m doing what I’m doing and why I’m doing it in this way…Why I love helping clients like you!
*** My why is freedom + empowerment. I believe the world needs more people who feel free and empowered to live the life they were born to live, not the one they believe they’re ‘supposed to’ want. One that takes them beyond their wildest dreams of what is possible, to experience peace, and to learn to love themselves. ***
A bit more of my own journey below:
>> I spent most of my life trying to be who and what I believed everyone else wanted and needed me to be. I took pride in my ability to successfully contort and stretch myself as thin and as widely as I could. I celebrated my ability to make everyone happy, get the gold stars, and make it all appear effortless along the way.
>> That largely left me feeling alone, consumed by my thoughts, anxiety, and insecurities about whatever I WASN’T doing (or not doing well enough). If I wasn’t busy hustling, I was busy shaming myself for not having done more. It was never enough.
>> Didn’t get a good grade or performance rating at work? Should’ve worked harder. Not happy with how you look in a swimsuit? Should’ve eaten less or differently and worked out more, or maybe been born with different genetics (things I actually thought…) Someone is mad at you for saying ‘no’ to something for once? Should’ve said yes and made it work somehow; stop being lazy. SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME.
>> If you’re reading this saying ‘yep yep yep’, I want to let you know that I’m aware how freaking EXHAUSTING this thought process can be. And it’s endless. I used to barely sleep 3-4 hours a night (true story, not an exaggeration) because the shame reel in my mind didn’t take time off, and as a result, my body couldn’t either. (Not to mention, my poor body, who carried this pain and exhaustion for years, was also enemy #1 in all of this.)
>> And the worst pain of it all was that I truly believed I had to do it alone, keep it all to myself. It had to stay inside, in my mind, ruminating, figuring it out + dealing with it myself. I believed that my burden was no one else’s to help me sort through; and to be honest, admitting this enormous burden after spending most of my life trying so hard to paint a picture of effortlessness and “chill” was my greatest fear of all.
All that work to look ‘put together’…for ‘nothing’…
>> The risk didn’t feel worth it for a long time, but eventually, I reached out my hands and asked for help (this one step was another journey in and of itself…) Moving forward required a willingness to finally trust someone to share this with, to hold my hand and look at what I’ve been carrying around all of these years, and unpack it together. The first few conversations were a much-needed release valve to let some steam out, and then came the years of unraveling that have followed, the return to myself.
>> I had avoided doing this in the past partially because for a long time I truly didn’t realize there was another way to live (I didn’t see that I had a choice).
Once I figured out there had to be another way, I avoided it because I knew that as soon as I admitted that there was a problem to someone, then I would be asked to put down the load on my back filled with social pressures, expectations, and beliefs about who I needed to be, and look it in the eye.
At the time, I much preferred to keep the load on my back, where I could do my best to avoid dealing with it – to pretend that it was just a part of me, not something separate that was weighing me down.
Essentially, putting down the load meant I was being asked to challenge to my identity, who I spent all of these years trying to become and start understanding and accepting who I had been all along from day one.
>> I began to see that while years of carrying that burden has undoubtedly shaped me, it does not define me. That by asking for help and having support, someone could now help me take the load off my back, put it down, dismantle it piece by piece, some pieces larger and hidden deeper than others. It is an ongoing process of identifying all that is not me and putting down what doesn’t serve me anymore.
>> I also understand that the truth of who I am is much simpler, peaceful, lighter, and freer than I ever made it out to be, and that I have a say in whether or not I will continue to carry the weight of who I’m not anymore.
>> I also realized that while it is a choice to let it go, I didn’t consciously choose to carry this burden from day one; none of us really do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of it is a burden we’re born into, learn from a young age, get handed by society, or subconsciously take on.
But once I became aware that my shoulders were tired, was done proving how strong I was, and was willing to admit that maybe I couldn’t do it anymore, then I could begin the process of preparing myself to put it down. To remove the beliefs and expectations and pain that didn’t serve me anymore. To find ways to lighten the load day-by-day.
>> The change began when I decided I wouldn’t continue to carry this burden. Not just for myself, but for the future. Because the big weight on my back wouldn’t just ‘go away’ when I died. I was responsible for deciding whether or now I would hand this weight down to the generations that come after me. I can’t always control what others do, but I can control my role in this, and through that act, I hope to inspire and empower others to do the same.
>> Each day, I’m faced with these weights being thrown back at me like a game of hot potato (e.g., people still trying to tell me how I should eat or exercise, that I am or am not successful, that I’m not doing ‘enough’, judging my life + career choices, etc.) and making the decision of whether I want them back or not.
At first, it was incredibly hard; I thought ‘maybe I’m just crazy? Maybe they were right? Should I just go back to the old ways?! Why can’t I just be normal and accept it like everyone else? I’m weak and need to just suck it up!‘
I tried taking some of them back a few times and some new ones have come along the way, but I realized I wanted none of it anymore. With persistence, courage, dedication, and support along the way, there came a moment when I realized this new way of living my life was no longer just an intellectual knowing, but a ‘heart-knowing’. I began to create a new reality for myself, one where I knew I not only could, but wanted to say ‘no’ to carrying the load anymore.
>> The beauty is that strength is versatile. The very strength I developed and demonstrated over those years of carrying something that was not mine to carry – rather I learned it was mine to dissolve, to transform – was an accumulation of the strength from not only my lifetime but also all those individuals who have carried this same pain before me for their entire lives.
>> And when I finally had the courage to start saying ‘no more’, putting down the load for me felt like the greatest act of strength. It is because I was so strong that I could do this. Being able to say ‘no’, to do my part to not contribute to perpetuating and handing down the pain from the past, is a continuous act supported by all that strength from the years and people coming before this moment who couldn’t or didn’t stop it and in many cases weren’t even aware of it being a choice, it just ‘was’.
>> When ‘no more’ began replacing the exhaustion of carrying that burden I became so much more powerful and felt unstoppable. Because no more offers to carry this BS means more space for me. More breathing room. Strength and energy and love and passion and time, the very things that had been used for years to help me get by, can be redirected so that I can live my truth. I can use the power I was born with to transform and create and be, rather than to fight and struggle and hate myself endlessly. Of course, I’m not done taking my weights off yet – it’s a lifelong journey – but my load is MUCH, MUCH lighter.
>> I spent all of these years carrying this weight on my shoulders, in my mind, in my heart, throughout my whole being. Now that so much of it has been put down, I have no intention of picking it up again.
I could feel in my body what it felt like to release so much of this heavy pain I had been holding onto for so long. Through regularly speaking my truth, to myself and to other compassionate souls, through healing my painful thoughts, each day I become freer and freer, and more and more of my power is reclaimed and used to live my life how I want to.
I am free to see things differently, and empowered to own and voice my perspective.
I am free to take a deep breath and pause, and empowered to do nothing when it feels like I need to do everything.
I am free to make decisions for myself, and empowered to trust that I know what’s best for me.
I am free to contribute to and participate in this world in a way that feels good to me, and empowered to withstand the pressure to contribute and participate in the ways dictated to me.
I am free to not focus on pleasing everyone around me, and empowered to focus on listening to and caring for myself so that I show up better for myself and everyone I encounter.
I am free to be who I truly am.
Freedom and empowerment – THIS is my why. Some people may see this ‘emotional’ work as superfluous, hard, not worth your time. (I certainly used to.) Or maybe that your problems aren’t really ‘that bad’. (That one, too.) However, we all have emotional energy and deep-seated beliefs influencing our behavior and views of the world, regardless of whether we acknowledge that or use it to better understand ourselves or not.
Based on my own experience, I know that there are those of us who continue to say ‘yes’ to running on the treadmill we never truly wanted to be on in the first place (if we’re being honest with ourselves, here), and we’re not happy about it; we’re tired, but we do it because we’re ‘supposed to’ and we don’t know what else to do.
But in each moment we choose to say ‘yes’ to one thing, we’ve also said ‘no’ to many others. So my ‘why’ is to help you start taking that burden off your shoulders like others did for me so that you can pick your head up and see all the trails and paths that are out there or maybe even pioneer your own. Deciding in each moment which one you want to be on, giving yourself permission and muster the courage to pivot, even when it feels like you’ve gone way too far down one road, and it feels like there’s no turning back. My goal is to help people to live with intention and see the freedom and empowerment of choice in places that used to feel like obligations.
So with that, I would absolutely love to hear from you all what YOUR ‘why’ is, if this resonates with you, and any other thoughts that come up for you from reading this 🙂
You’ve got this. <3
As always, feel free to share this with anyone who may find it helpful, and I look forward to hearing how it helps you.
P.S. If you need some help with this (or other related topics) and are interested in possibly working together, click the ‘Contact’ button above, and let’s get talkin’!