Finding your why…

Most of us will have been guided in some way into our careers. It may have been through advice-giving services, maybe parents or even, if we are lucky enough, through career professionals. We might have taken that advice on board at sixteen or twenty years old and spent much of our working lives trying to achieve some sort of goal. What drives those goals? Money? The desire for fame? The desire to reach the dizzy heights of management or the board room, or the desire to make your working life fit around your mission?

What about those of us who have spent years doing what we are trained for or have become skilled in, before coming to realise that it is not part of our ‘why’. We have recently read about university courses in USA and Canada that focus on pairing the students’ study with their purpose. JP Michel explains this as being, “The goal was to help students select a meaningful course of study while in school, and then scaffold a clear arc for the first 10 – 15 years of their professional lives. It wasn’t about the career trajectory, but the reasons behind it.” What a fabulous way to plan your study based on the values that are important to you!

We spend approximately 2080 hours of one year at work. It is increasingly likely that we will be working until we are 70 years old. If we started work at 20 years old, then that is an alarming 41,600 hours spent working! Imagine spending that much time never having been able to satisfy your ‘why’!

Some companies will say that they are ‘values driven’ but be mindful; they’re talking about their values and they may not be yours. Finding your ‘why’ is all about you and your values and what is important to you. One of the most dramatic shifts to emerge from the pandemic is the number of people who re-evaluated their working life and decided that life was far too short not to be pursuing their values! Hands up how many of you watched with envy the reels on Instagram showing how individuals of all age groups had packed up their belongings and embraced ‘van life’? Didn’t that look fantastic? We shouldn’t have to wait for a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic to make us realise that without our ‘why’ the daily grind is pretty pointless.

We owe it to ourselves to understand the things that are important to us. That old million-dollar question…”If nothing was holding you back, how would you earn your crust?” I remember asking my Dad this question and I was amazed to hear that he would have gone to art school. Instead, he was told by his parents that “a proper apprenticeship was the way forward – not such nonsense”. He did a five-year apprenticeship and became a highly skilled engineering fitter until he had a life-changing heart attack before he was forty-five and could never work in his field again. Throughout the remainder of his life, he drew, painted, did photography made music and sang. He knew what his ‘why’ was but thirty years ago, there weren’t any career professionals helping adults. He died at sixty-three with only his ‘hobbies’ to show for it.

We owe it to ourselves to find our ‘why’ and get the support to help us to explore how we turn that into doing the things we love best in an environment that sits in our values – that explains our ‘why’ and supports us to water it and enable it to flourish.