September 5

Why Do You Put Yourself Through This?

Have you ever wondered why you do things, what motivates you to try something? I remember when my children were small and had learned to walk around and begin to say words, one of the 1st was why this, why that – I mean to the point of driving one to the point of exasperation.

For me, the word “why” suggests curiosity and challenge of the status quo. Recently, I got so curious about the definition; I did a Google search and the 1st 2 results that popped up were “why is the sky blue?” and “why is my poop green?” OK, TMI, but seriously, this 3-letter word packs a lot of wallop if you give it a chance. Merriam-Webster defines why as “the cause, reason, or purpose for which you do it.”

In 2017 my boss of 43 years passed away and many of my friends and family members assumed it might be a good time to retire (I was 69 at the time).

My thoughts, however, pivoted to “oh goody, I think it’s time for a new adventure” and I decided to further my education and went off to graduate school.

When I shared this with friends and family, comments that came up were: ‘you’re pushing 70 ‘ya know’ or ‘why would you want to put yourself through all that?’ Why indeed?

Recently, I discovered that my top 2 strengths (Clifton Strengths Gallup link) are Input and Learner which suggest “a natural curiosity and craving for more” and “a curiosity and desire for continuous improvement…courage when venturing into the unknown.”

I knew nothing about Clifton Strengths and Strengths Based Leadership when I made the decision to further my education, but in hindsight, finding out my top 10 strengths has offered a lot of perspective and validation on ‘why’ I chose to go after my master’s degree not to mention some of my former pivots.

During my 1st semester residency (8 days on campus) in late February of 2018, I was in my dorm room, and it was extremely cold (inside!). As part of its sustainability mission, the college used an onsite wood-chip boiler system to heat all of the dorms and other buildings. My dorm room was at the end of the hall, so I was the last to receive heat and it got really cold during the night – to the point it was warmer in the shower!

My husband suggested that I should just give up the notion of post graduate study and just come home – no one needs to even know. My immediate and visceral response was “NO, I’ll figure something out” and I stayed my course.

Why do you get up in the morning? In his TEDx Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Simon Sinek, talks about the “Golden Circle.” The center of the circle contains the “why” and suggests this area is similar to the limbic region of your brain and controls decision-making, feelings, loyalty, your beliefs, among other things. The circle around that is “how” and the final circle around both is “what” or the result.

When you are talking from the inside out, you are talking to and/or from the limbic region – feelings, motivators, emotions, etc. Referring to Martin Luther King’s famous words “I have a dream,” Sinek reminds the audience "he did not say 'I have a plan'.”

Start with why and you have the ability to inspire others. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it – sell to people who believe what you believe (your why)” ~Simon Sinek.

I had a dream when I began graduate school – I didn’t have a fully developed study plan; no idea how I was going to pay for it; or what I was going to pursue a degree in – I just had a dream and the belief that it was a dream worth pursuing.

My ‘why’ at the time was powerful enough to overcome the discomfort of the cold and persevere through adversity. I was burned out from my longtime paralegal position I had been in for 43 years. I have always craved learning, knowledge, and education. I love an adventure and an opportunity for taking advantage of my passion for learning had just dropped in my lap. Why, oh why, would I turn my back on it?

And so, I figured something out. It may have had something to do with dirty socks stuck in the cracks of the windows, but this is not the forum for dirty laundry or so the LinkedIn gurus tell me. Anyway, that was the ‘power of my why,’ and since this is my story, I’m stickin’ to it.

Fine-tuning your why can become the driving force that overcomes procrastination, overwhelm, or when your brain just offers “I don’t want to, I don’t know how, I’d rather do something else, I don’t feel like it, I’m just not motivated today, I’ll wait for inspiration….”

There is no exit ramp on the road of the human experience. Life is 50/50 - a mixture of good and not so good.

However, when your decision is based on your why, the choices you make are more likely to be solid, deliberate, and intentional, and in alignment with your dreams and goals; and ultimately more likely to carry you through most anything.

Stay tuned next month for another jaunt Around the Block with Skeeter. Summer will have ended, and a new season is beginning. I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon.

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