Sunday, May 1, 2016

What is your why? Striving for purpose

I have no "why". I discovered this when I was working on an assignment for a leadership challenge. When asked "why" I do the things I do, I have no answer.

The shoulder shrug I normally give doesn't count.

I mean, even the question "Why do I get out of bed?" is tough to answer.  Usually, it is because I have to pee or eat. Sometimes, it is because the dog has to pee or eat.

I'm not a complicated woman.

Who am I?

Despite being so much clearer about who I am than I was in my 20s, I find that (on the fine edge of the end of my 30s) I am still not entirely sure. I am more comfortable in my own skin, but when asked to describe myself I still stand dumbfounded and mute.

I read the book What color is your parachute? by Dick Bolles and, though I'm not looking for work, he had a lot of good ideas for self-inventory. I completed his "Who am I" challenge where you write that question on the top of 10 pieces of paper and answer one word on each page. You then describe why that one word describes you and organize the pages in order of importance to you.

I imagine I can do this exercise 35 times and come up with that many answers, but it helped me get a handle on who I am right now.

what colour is your parachute passion planner who i am
Nearly 40 and just learning who I really am

Disconnecting and reconnecting

After I stepped down from my supervisory role at work, I had a time of real disconnect. (I may still be having it, it seems.) I had been so focused on my work, my office, training new staff, encouraging long-term staff, the negative politics, the injustice, the lack of communication, and the every day ups and downs that I needed to step back for my own physical and mental health.

But I found that, after taking that step back and disconnecting from my over-involvement, I was and am a little lost. I finally had time to knit cool things and read trashy books, but I was adrift on an ocean of "What now?"

So what, now what?

Anyone who knows me knows I have been a little crazy about my Passion Planner for the last few months. If you don't know what a passion planner is, it is like a big day planner, but it encourages you to have goals and be mindful of your time. (Go there and look at them. I heart them so much.)

The main task they have you complete before you start your planner is to map out your passions.
If you could have anything you want, be anything you want, do anything you want, what would you do?

My first attempt at "passion" for my life consisted of chores I thought I should get done before I died. I wish I had saved it to show you. My friends and I teasingly called it my "Meh" map.

It took me a few months of no responsibilities and no direction to be able to answer those questions with any semblance of enthusiasm. 

Passion plan roadmap
Second attempt at a roadmap

I have a better idea where I would like to see my life go, but I don't know if that is the path I will take. I tend to live my life in a way that is accidentally better than I had intended and I kind of like it that way.

I will go where I think I will do the most good and I will see what the world has in store for me. If I have a goal or two that I accomplish along the way? I'm cool with that. I've been so focused on accomplishing things that I have forgotten to experience them. My goal now is to find a balance in that.

My why

I am still not sure how to answer this question. This is part of my learning process where I have to delve deeper into the motivations behind my basic answers.

My go-to answer for why I do the things I do is this: I want to help people.

However, this can be flawed in itself. For me, when those closest to me are in turmoil, my world feels out of whack, so I go out of my way to fix that turmoil and thus settle my life. I am learning that my "helping" in the way that works best for me is sometimes unneeded and unwanted. 

I know people who are not helpers don't necessarily understand that. They firmly believe that helpers are heroes and benevolent.

Sometimes I am, sure. But sometimes, not.

As long as I am aware of that contradiction and balance my motivation with what is helpful for those I can help, I can usually amend my why to be "to help people be the best version of themselves -- whatever that means to them."

My daily reasons

But, to answer the question "why do I get out of bed?" I really don't have to search very hard.  My real why is in the form of a lanky German and a small furry creature. I am glad to be part of my little family. 

man and dog
These two are my why


  1. So good! Thanks for sharing! I, too, was really excited about my passion planner but then when I got it I was so stumped! And then I was stumped at why I was stumped. The planner really didn't get used as it was intended, but my inward journey has come a long way since realizing that I had a lot to learn about the way I work. It might be time for a second go at it!

    1. I think a second look might be worth it for you! I am loving it now. But I still have so much to learn!!


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