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Don't Forget Why You Work

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Monterey, CA. My son and I are on a short weekend trip to tour CSU Monterey Bay. It’s our first college tour, and it has surfaced a lot of things for both of us.

I write a lot about creating balance between work and life, but not often enough do we talk about the benefits of it. That’s what is on my mind this morning.

Leaders are driven, focused and ambitious…sometimes to a fault. We set big goals, we grind and are not afraid to sacrifice to achieve them. But we don’t really talk about what happens when you achieve them. Too often, we’re off to the next one. This is the “why” behind our work and it’s as important as the work itself.

The "why" behind our work is as important as the work itself

So, I’m smack in the middle of that moment and want to try and unpack it for you in real time…as best I can.

I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college for a number of reasons. My wife worked full time to get herself through college which was not easy. Being able to give our kids the option to go away to a four year school was a big goal for us since we got married. For any of you that have grown kids, you know that this moment somehow sneaks up on you and becomes very real, very fast. 

So as I sit here in Monterey with my son I’m reminded that this is the moment we worked so hard to create. It’s not the only goal, or maybe even the biggest one, but it’s “the why” behind so many tough choices, late nights and endless effort over the years. 

So, why do we work?

That’s a pretty personal question I think, but it’s important to remember what that “your why” looks and feels like. Here’s what I’m feeling in the moment.

  1. Gratitude: I’m filled with so much gratitude right now - to be here with him, to give him this opportunity, and to have been supported by so many to make this possible. 

  1. Joy: There’s nothing quite like seeing your child glowing and filled with excitement, but this is different. This is a new level and it’s wonderful.

  1. Hope: The world is not an easy place, but I have a sense of hope for him and his generation to do great things, things they enjoy, and things that make an impact.

  1. Growth: while I’m watching him grow before my eyes, there’s no doubt I’m doing the same. It’s a new season for both of us, and we’re doing it together.

  1. Motivation: This fuels me. Seeing it all come together, feeling the gift of giving, being in a position to make a positive impact - it will drive me to do more.

That’s a pretty damn good list in my opinion for why I work, but your “why” may be different. You have different goals, different priorities and a different path. But something is driving them. Maybe it’s not the feelings I’m having, but it’s something. 

A sense of accomplishment.

To give or support someone or something you care about.

To prove something to yourself.

To overcome adversity.

To find a sense of purpose.

To release yourself from stress or pressure.

To achieve a new sense of freedom. 

To find pure joy and happiness.

Your work doesn’t just have to be a means to an end, it can have meaning.

Whatever “your why” is, I’d encourage you to spend some time with it. And not just during the dark times, and not just when setting the next goal. Remind yourself along the way, why you work. 

And when you arrive at that special moment, be there.

Enjoy it. Soak it in. Share it. What you are feeling should be guilt-free gratitude. Don’t worry about what’s next because you don’t want to miss what’s right now. Your “why” is a reminder that it’s all worth it. 

Your work doesn’t just have to be a means to an end, it can have meaning. Find it and it will make the journey that much more rewarding.


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