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Why Do You Do What You Do?

Posted August 9, 2017

Why do you do what you do? is a very different question than the most often asked question in day-to-day life, whether in a social setting or the marketplace: What do you do? The latter is a fair question and a reliable conversation starter, one that people are used to answering in a cursory fashion, unless they happen to be unemployed or hate their work, in which case they usually dread the question. People who actually love their work tend to answer the question in a noticeably different and interesting way.

Why do you do what you do? is an important question in career coaching and life coaching. I’m not suggesting that you go around asking other people why they do what they do. They would probably think you were challenging them or implying something negative. What I am suggesting, though, is that you ask this question of yourself, and see where it takes you. Be gentle, curious, open-minded, and compassionate toward yourself. You could find out some very interesting things. Maybe you are more committed to your work than you thought; maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the meaning you could derive from your work; maybe your mindlessness can be transformed into mindfulness. Work that is performed in an unconscious manner, no matter what it is, becomes a meaningless paycheck.

A friend recently attended a non-profit board retreat and was asked a similar question regarding his board participation: Why did you decide to volunteer for this organization? Participants were asked to reflect for a few minutes before writing down their thoughts and before answering the question aloud. (I refer to this as “reflect and capture”, meaning, “Get your thoughts out of your head, into your heart, and onto the paper.”) The answers when shared aloud to the whole group were surprisingly moving and inspirational. As each person shared their story, the group sensed a deeper sense of purpose in their shared commitment. By stopping to reflect and capture their thinking about meaning and purpose, mindlessness was transformed into mindfulness, and their shared commitment became a new thing. That would be the point of a retreat, I imagine, to renew.

In my work, by the end of a series of career/life coaching sessions, I want all of my clients to know why they are doing what they are doing and be able to explain it effectively to other people, whether a husband, a wife, a partner, a relative, a friend, or a potential employer.  What we aim for, and what is most powerful and effective, is the authentic story, the authentic narrative; it begins to emerge all by itself as we dive in and do the work of reflecting and capturing your thinking on several Big Questions you may not have been asking yourself.

I know you have the answers within you. I just help you to hear them and follow them into the future you want. This is what career/life coaching is all about.

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