Discovering Your Why

My business partner has a favorite question he likes to ask when interviewing someone for a role with our company. “Tell me about a time in your career when you were really excited to get up in the morning and get to work.” I’m always curious to see how people respond. Someone who has felt that fire and can honestly say “I love my job” is more likely to be successful and help the company grow.

New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner discovered the five places in the world – dubbed “Blue Zones” – where people live the longest and are the healthiest. One of the common characteristics of these healthy, happy people is that they have a readily identifiable purpose in their lives. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” and it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Buettner asserts that “knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.”

Similarly, Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, defines your “why” as the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. Let’s consider, for example, a parent working three jobs. What causes such a person to work so hard? Perhaps their “why” might be to have the means to afford a college education for their children, allowing them to have better lives.

Does the “why” matter? It certainly does to the person doing the work. And here’s the reason, according to Sinek: “Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion.” People who are passionate about their work are happier and more successful.

Finding Your “Why”

Taking the time to identify and articulate why you do what you do is a valuable investment. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to get started:

  • What am I working toward? Where do I see myself in five years?
  • How will I make a difference in the world?
  • How do I want to be remembered? What’s my legacy?
  • Who depends on me? How will I make their lives better?

So, where did you land?  If your “why” ended at something like “financial independence”, don’t stop there. Make sure you understand why being financially independent is important to you. If, for example, being financially independent will allow you to travel more, identify that and ask yourself, “What will seeing the world do for me?” Ultimately, your “why” should lead to your own happiness and satisfaction, even though your “what” likely involves helping others along the way.

I started my career in outbound telephone sales and later worked in customer service. During my time “on the phones” I realized that not everyone shared my enthusiasm for creating exceptional customer experiences. A perception exists in this industry – and is even more pronounced in outsource companies – that call center work is, at best, a stepping stone to something better or, at worst, a monotonous slog that sucks the life out of you.

I don’t agree with that perception. Like Simon Sinek, I believe everyone has a right to love what they do. This belief helped me identify and articulate my “why”: to create the kind of company that will enable my customer support staff to honestly say to themselves at the end of the day, “I love my job.” This is what makes me excited to get up early and get to work! This is why I do what I do!

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