This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward.
As a coach, I work with people around meaning, purpose, what they want to create in their lives. Basically it’s about what they are up to – and how to take action so that they are actually up to something (not just thinking about it).
And a lot of new clients have been reaching out to me, and the common theme in their topics is:
What am I going to do next?
They are ready to move forward, and are looking for support to pick a direction.
And it comes down to this: what’s compelling for you? What motivates you? Why?
I love helping them with this. So much fun.
But this isn’t where everyone is. Some of us are in a holding pattern, taking a breath, taking each day as it comes. Good. That’s what we need too.
And there is something about our current times that has many, if not all, of us think about what’s next for us.
You might think that as a coach I always have it together. I’m connected to my purpose, right? I know what I’m compelled by, of course!
And just like every other amazing individual on this planet (yes I did just call myself amazing. not going to #humblebrag it. I own it) I lose the plot.
I forget. I lose touch with who I am and what I’m about. (even when I’m helping my clients connect to theirs, I can be thinking “wow I wish I had that kind of clarity”)
Do I Need A Why?
And during these past couple of months, when all of a sudden most of what I was up to got cancelled, I struggled to answer that “what am I going to do next?” question.
I let myself dream, I brainstormed, I discussed with others. I had a lot of options.
But it was really hard to decide on a course of action.
I struggled. Wrestled. Contemplated. Rethought.
It was a bit like this last collection of words. Any single one of those words would have been enough to get my message across, but I came up with a bunch of them, and then kept them all.
But how do you move forward with a whole bunch of stuff? How do you know which one is right?
Knowing Your Why.
I had lost sight of my why. I couldn’t articulate it. I started writing and came up with 20.
Now while I love variety, you can’t steer yourself with 20 things. But you can do 20 different things as a result of your why.
This is the important distinction I’m making here:
Your why: it’s a one thing that drives you and helps you navigate
Your what: are all the things you do that bring your why to life and into the real world.
So, My Why Was All Fuzzy.
Decision making had become really hard. I got caught in thought loops.
So I followed leadership rule No. 1: ask for help.
I bought a copy of Start With Why – which is a great book and a book review of it is coming up – but it didn’t help me. It told me what a why was, and why you need a why. Great examples of other people’s why. (I still recommend this book but that’s another post).
What I needed was help to find my why. I still hadn’t actually asked for help – I was still trying to do it on my own.
This is where the actual asking for help started: I booked a discover your why session with Matt Dunsmoor. Thank you Matt, it was so useful.
He took me through their process, via story telling, to help me find my why. I have a draft articulation of it now. Over time I’ll play with it and refine it – as I learn more about my why.
And it’s not my marketing message. It’s personal. It’s my articulation of what compels me, what motivates me. It helps me decide which of my options and ideas I want to act on – by only choosing the ones that make my why come to life.
I’m going to share it with you. I think you might recognise this – in the way I coach, the fact that I coach at all, even in this blog I write.
To poke us out of our own way so that we tackle life’s challenges confidently.
So I know my why. What’s the big deal?
I’ve actually renewed my focus on coaching – my work in service of others where I get to really live this why. I poke, I bring lightness. My clients tackle life’s challenges confidently. And I’m actually coaching more. I. Love. It.
I have confidence again that I’m on the right track. What I’m doing makes sense. I have stopped second guessing all my decisions.
Wow, the relieve! I have so much more energy.
I’m more decisive.
I’m having fun again. I feel good about my work, about what I’m up to. And I had lost some of that too.
Can we get by in life without finding our why?
Of course you can. People do it all the time. You might be lucky and have life be easy for you, that you are happy, that things go well. Unfortunately it’s more likely that life will be a struggle, tiring, a bit of a drudge. There’s a lot more “pushing” to make things happen.
Or horror of horrors, life might just be “meh”.
Why do we even need a why?
It makes life easier and more fulfilling. It defines how you interact with the world and others. It helps you attract more of what you want.