Another day ticks away. The same routine, morning, noon, and night; work, lunch, work, household chores, maybe a little time in front of the TV and then off to bed. The past 18mths or so has forced many of us to reflect on our lives and perhaps bring into focus the lack of ‘meaning’ in much of what we do.. Sound familiar? It can feel like ground hog day. All in all, this routine seems whole. But, even after all of this, do you find yourself wondering, "why do I feel so empty?”, “there’s something missing” “what's all this for?”
When was the last time you felt alive, I mean, ‘really alive’?
We’re programmed from our childhood to focus on the next challenge along an obstacle course that leads supposed to lead to ….. well...happiness I guess.
The Treadmill Starts Earlier than Ever
Even before we’re born, our parents start planning for getting us into the right nursery, so we can have the right start, to get into the right schools, to help get the right grades for entry into the right college, leading to the right degree at the right university, in order to get into the right career. Why? Well, it’s so you can afford a house, a car, maybe find a partner along the way and then get a bigger house, a bigger car and so on! In all of this do you ever recall asking yourself to find your ‘reason why?’
If life is the ‘pursuit of happiness’, maybe it’s time to stand back and reflect. Some are lucky to have found their ‘sweet spot’ where life has meaning. However, for most of us, we tend to have mixed up our personal and professional goals with our real ‘purpose’ in life. We slip into a routine, which we then accept as our lot in life, never standing back to question the numbness. We lack a sense of feeling energized, feeling ‘really alive’ in each moment. One reason might be because we've yet to find our reason ‘why’.
It’s never too late to find your Reason Why
So where do we start? Well, it’s a journey of reflection and exploration that starts by taking a step back and introspecting, pushing the boundaries and asking ourselves some tough questions. So why should you bother? Look back in history, look around you and you’ll know the people that seem to have boundless energy, passion and drive….Dig deeper into their lives and you’ll realise that they’re not immune to challenges and setbacks, but their focus on their Reason Why, dominates their mental landscape; everything else is just ‘noise’. This journey, requires patience, persistence, and courage, but the rewards are worth it.
It comes with a fair set of challenges and will force you to face aspects of your life that you may have been in denial about. I’ve helped many along their journey to finding their ‘reason why’ and they haven’t looked back since. This whole equation applies equally in the business world where companies find themselves lacking direction or purpose, have demotivated staff and a high rate of attrition, a lack of productivity or have become less relevant in their market. Whatever it is, you can do something about it.
So, if you’re ready to retune, here are some thoughts on how you might set out on the journey to your ‘reason why’.
Your Reason Why lies at the intersection of:
Your Life’s Purpose
Your Talents and Qualities
Let’s look at these in turn…
Understanding Your ‘Life Purpose’
Your reason why, or your purpose, is the core of what you were born to do in this life. It's bigger than merely a career or a professional goal and seeps into every aspect of your life. Something that resonates with you at your very core. Your "why" connects you to your higher self to help manifest all that you dream of. It's your roadmap to a life that leaves you feeling fulfilled, at ease, and accomplished. The sense of achievement you have after achieving a professional milestone is nothing compared to the feeling you get from pursuing your life’s purpose. It’s like the search has finally come to an end.
So, ask yourself, apart from the materialistic gains like money, a home, fame, climbing the corporate ladder, what truly gives you that sense of accomplishment from within? A feeling that isn’t fulfilled by simply buying a gadget or receiving an award but something that just ignites the joy inside. Finding a ‘purpose’ sparks creativity and a drive to accomplish what you desire.
The foundation of it all, Your Values
Your whole life is built on this. Your values, your beliefs, and qualities that you feel strongly about. These values may make up your moral code, a clear divide in perception of what’s right, wrong and ‘acceptable’ in order to conduct your life. A starting point of perhaps understanding your values and what’s deep rooted within you is to look at your ‘anti-values’. Ask yourself, “What actions do you despise?” “What according to you is NOT okay”. “What are you willing to tolerate or overlook versus a hard NO”. Your values make up your moral character and in turn, help to define the moral landscape you wish to see in the world.
A simple example would be to strive to always be honest and just, so when you see someone lying or unjust, it gets under your skin. I’ve noticed that to be able to find your purpose, your values form a very firm layer of that journey. They simply go hand in hand.
What you are blessed with, Your Talents and Qualities
Your talents are your innate strengths. Some talents are apparent, like the ability to sing, dance, compose music, create art. However, others are so ingrained in the person that you are that you take them for granted. It takes others to help you recognize them and to show you how special you really are.
A simple example could be, the ability to connect with people wherever you go, or the quality of being able to put others above your own self and so the ‘selflessness’ really stands out. Let’s pause here and ask, “Do you get happiness out of helping others?” “Does the success of someone else bring a smile to your face?”, “Do you like going the extra mile for someone you love?”. A few other qualities could be the ability to read between the lines, or to be able to empathize.
If you don’t know yours, try asking others. Ask friends and family what they love about you. Most likely, they will respond with a quality or talent that you never expressly learned but has always been a part of you. This is where your talent lies and graciously accept the compliment.
Your Skills – Innate or Acquired?
Your skills are the tools you have in your toolbox. Some of them have been with you since birth, others acquired through practice and effort. Sometimes, your talents, qualities and skills can overlap. For instance, your ability to sing may be innate. However, your ability to read music is a learned skill that supports your talent.
Skills aren’t unique to you. In theory, anyone can learn the skill you have. Developing skills comes through training and practice, remember the 10,000 hour rule from Malcolm Gladwell? Look at what you’d list on your resume for a job or if someone asked you what you’re good at, what would you say? It’s important to realise that skills feed naturally into our purpose. Let’s just say it gets easier to take a step closer to your reason why if you have the tools that help support it.
The last part of the puzzle that makes up your “why” is your passion.
What gets you out of bed,
however tired or exhausted you are?
These are the acts that you never tire of and that energize you. These are usually found in your hobbies and your interests. It’s where you go to ‘naturally’ to unwind or recharge. Again, your passions can overlap with your skills and talents (and should!). Singing, for instance, can be a talent we have that we are passionate about.
So ask yourselves, “what do you turn to when you’re tired and low? What can you point to as your passion?” It’s something that resonates within your core. Unlike values, passions don’t have obvious morality connected to them. Instead, they are the hobbies, causes, and acts that you care about.
Finding the Intersection
Given that we’ve been able to assess and evaluate different angles to finding our ‘purpose’ or our reason ‘why’ let’s try and map them in a Venn diagram. What do you see? Which parts of the circles overlap? What is that sweet spot, or intersection and what does that say? What is that intersection telling you?
We need to find ourselves, let the journey unfold in discovering what is it that sings from within. What are we doing to be closer to our purpose? How much time are we really devoting to ensure we discover ourselves, to be closer to that feeling of accomplishing our ‘reason why’? As Mark Twain said, “The Two most important days in life are the day you were born, and the day you discover your reason why”. So don’t stop your search. Keep looking. You just need to look a little harder. I promise, the answers are very much around you.