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August 2010

Focus on "Why"
Let the "How" Come

"Creating work you love and loving the work you have aren't selfish. They are the most generous things you can do because when you are nourished by work, you have more to give the world."

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Whenever you're feeling stuck or frustrated because things aren't happening the way you hoped or thought they should, here's something to consider. Are you focusing on the "how," the "what," or the "why"?

What's the Difference?
Imagine you're planning a vacation. If you focus on how you're going to travel before deciding where you're going or why you're even taking time off, that doesn't make sense, right? "If I head west on the interstate, I'll end up at the beach." Maybe, maybe not.

Yet, this happens in daily life when you focus on the details or strategy and lose sight of where you're headed and most importantly, why you're headed there. Why are you wanting to go to the beach?  Do you know what is motivating you to travel west?

Are you focused on "How?"
Here's an example related to work. Complete this phrase: "If I _______________ (fill in the blank), then I'll get what I want." Here are some example phrases to choose from:
  • catch up with all my projects or tasks
  • get an MBA (or other degree)
  • make more money (or get a promotion)
  • have a better boss
  • own my own business
  • switch careers
  • gain more experience, skills, contacts, etc.
These are options that may move you closer to what you want, just as heading west may possibly get you to a beach. However, without being clear about why you're headed in your chosen direction, you could waste time, money, and resources.

Let's switch to an easier, effective approach.

Focus on What, then Why
"What" helps you focus on the results you want-- the destination or goal. On a map, it may be Paris or a sunny beach. Related to work it may be:
  • More time away from work
  • Pay off debts
  • Better opportunities
  • A fulfilling job that uses your talents in ways that you enjoy
"Why" is your motivation for what you want! When you focus on why you want something, you tap into emotions or feelings. Why you're headed to a destination could be for adventure or relaxation, for example. When you think of why you work, what's your motivation? Is it to:
  • Be financially secure
  • Support my family
  • Do what I enjoy
  • Make a contribution
  • Something else?
Sometimes, there's another reason even beyond what you answered. So, let me ask you, if you could have the above, what would that get you? (e.g. Why do you want financial security? Why do you want to make a contribution?) Would you feel fulfilled? relaxed? happy? free? Notice what makes you smile. That's a clue you've tapped into your why!

Knowing "Why" Broadens Your Possibilities
The reason it's important to focus on "Why?" is that once you get clear on the feeling you want, you'll discover there are various options to achieve that feeling, and some may be easier and more feasible than strategies you originally envisioned.

For example, imagine you want to get completely away to relax and feel rejuvenated. You're fantasizing about a dream vacation to Hawaii. That's one option. What other options could also help you achieve that feeling? See how many creative options you can generate, including small steps you could take within the next few days. Write them down. Often options are closer than you think.

Recently, a client was thinking of going back to school. As she explored what and why, she realized she wants to have opportunities to make more money in order to have the resources to pursue interests she really loves. I asked her, "If you could have the resources and support to pursue the things you really love without going back to school, would you do it?" "Absolutely!" she said with a smile. We then explored other options that would move her closer to what she really wants. Had she just enrolled hoping to get where she wants, she may have been disappointed with her choice to waste precious time and money when her true goal didn't require her to have additional education.

Knowing "Why" Inspires Action
The other reason to be clear on why you're doing something is that feelings inspire action! I'll share more about this in another article. But, you already know it's easier to take action when you're inspired versus when you "should."

So, to create satisfying work, stay focused on why you want that and let the "how" come.

Live well,

MBA, Doctor of Naturopathy
(c) 2010 Christine Gust