During this time of year, people start to really reflect on their “why” – their reason for being, core beliefs, purpose and more. Whether you are happy as a clam in your current position or itching to do something else, pausing to get clear about the motivating factors driving your profession and life overall can lead to greater success, happiness and balance moving forward. Suitably intrigued? Keep reading for scoop on how to get clear about your career “why.”
Let’s start by taking about why the “why” matters. Simon Sinek, the author of “Start With Why” and one of the most popular TED Talks of all time, says that great leaders inspire action by connecting people to the purpose and cause of their organization. As comedian Michael Jr. notes in his “Know Your Why” video, “the key isn’t to know what, the key is to know why. Because when you know your why, you have options on what your what can be. Your what has more impact because you are walking toward your purpose.”
Career and Executive Coach Tammy Gooler Loeb, MBA, CPCC, enthusiastically recommends the Michael Jr. video to her clients. “It is important to know what motivates you and around which values you are operating your life because that’s what’s going to get you unstuck,” notes Loeb. “It’s at your core, where you feel the most grounded. When you know your “why,” the “what” comes so much more easily.”
“Let’s say someone wants to buy a house and they are going through the steps of talking to the bank and realtors” she continues. “But why do they really want to be a homeowner? The “why” could actually be about desiring stability and a safe place for their family to live.”
When it comes to identifying your why in terms of career, Gooler Loeb provides several steps to consider:
- Ask yourself questions. Make a list of probing questions to consider like “Why am I doing this?” and ‘What’s important to me about it?” Give yourself plenty of time to think about your responses, writing them down.
- Get a thinking partner. Gooler Loeb recommends a professional, such as a coach or therapist, to help you look inside. You may also consider asking a close friend to assume this role. In that case, ask for their perspective about when you have seemed the most grounded or happiest in your career, or a time in which you were truly living your purpose.
- Go back to your peak experiences. Look back at a moment – it could be a minute or a whole year – when everything felt just right. Think about what your career and overall life circumstances were and why it was important to you. What kind of impact were you able to have, or what impact did that have on you? If you can point to a few examples in your own life of when you felt the most grounded, grateful, a greater sense of connection or in the process of solving big problems, there’s a contentment within when you’re feeling that way.
- Tune into your thread of continuity. As Gooler Loeb notes, “even though I’ve had a lot of different jobs in different professions, there’s always been a thread throughout it all of helping other people with their quality of life. Even as a young kid I was doing volunteer work. Although my “what” has changed, there’s still nothing better for me than seeing people feel happier or better about their lives.” When you think about your professional or personal interests, what is the connection point? What kind of people are you drawn to, time and time again? How do those commonalities form a deeper picture of your values and purpose?
If you have been working for a while, don’t be surprised to see that the answers to these questions can shift. When I was in my twenties, my career “why” was focused on building great communications campaigns and winning awards for it while now, decades later, I’m more driven by being of service to others, building a positive culture and helping people claim what they deserve. Hope these tips help you better understand what drives your career and the kind of circumstances in which you’ll most thrive!
What is your career “why?” How has it shifted or changed over time?