Recently I was talking with my brother-in-law about his experience in positions of leadership. He is a deputy principal at one of the top boy’s schools in the country and has been an International TMO (Touch Match Official) for a number of years.
I was interested to know what lessons he had learnt and some of the challenges he has faced along the way. As always, he shared many good thoughts, but he said that one of the most helpful things for him has been understanding his ‘why’ - “Why do you do what you do?”
For him, and for many other leaders I have spoken to and read about, this is one of the most important things you can do. But why? Why is it so important to know why you do what you do?
There are a number of reasons, but I’ll answer with just a few that I’ve been pondering on.
#1 – going the distance
The first is that it helps you go the distance. I’m sure that most professional athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs have all gone through times when they thought about stopping.
But there is usually something even greater that encourages them to keep going. It might family, faith, fame, money, influence, making the world a better place, a love of what they do among many other things.
If you know your ‘why’, when things get tough, or you lose your passion, or you just don’t think it is worth it, you have a core belief that helps you to persevere.
#2 – focusing on what matters
The second reason is that knowing your ‘why’ keeps you focused on what really matters most. When we have new opportunities before us, we can easily become enticed by other things that would be nice to have, but that may actually stop us from doing what we believe is most important.
For example, you receive a promotion which would provide you with an extra $20,000 a year, however it would mean that you would have to work another ten hours a week. For some people this would be an easy decision, but for others not so much.
If you value spending time with your family or friends, you may actually prefer to stick with your current situation. However, if money is more important to you, you are likely to accept the offer.
It’s not always as simple as this, however the point is that just because it is sounds good, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily right for you. The best way to determine this is to really know “why” and then weigh the decision that you need to make against it.
#3 – prioritizing things
The third is that is knowing your ‘why’ helps you to prioritize things accordingly. This is similar to the second point however, it’s more about how you spend your time in your day to day life, rather than on making bigger life decisions.
Life pulls us in all sorts of directions and it is incredibly easy to get our priorities out of order. Instead of making time for what’s most important, we often do what we feel obligated to. This is usually because we are so concerned about what others think about us.
However, I highly doubt that we will get to the end of our lives and think…I wish mowed the lawns more regularly or I really should have kept my car tidier or I should have gone to that party of that person I hardly knew.
It’s not that they are bad things to do, it’s just there may be better things you could be spending your time doing. Personally, I would rather appear to be a little messier or even disorganized if it meant that I got to spend more time with people whom I love.
Reflecting on our lives
It all boils down to what our ‘why’ is. For many people, thinking about why you do what you do may not be something you have ever done before. In western society we can preoccupy ourselves with so much stuff that we often don’t spend that much time reflecting on what we really believe, what we want to do with our lives or what are our core values are.
Everyone still has them, it’s just that we don’t always know what they are. However, when we spend some time reflecting on our lives this can easily be figured out.I have personally found the easiest way to do this is to imagine what you would like people to say about you at your funeral.
Do you want to be known as kind, generous, adventurous, entrepreneurial or hardworking? Maybe you want to be remembered for how you were a loving parent, friend or colleague? Or potentially you may want to leave your mark on the world in some way?
It may sound a little corny but you could even come up with a ‘why’ catch phrase that you can recall every time you are finding things tough.
Once you have pondered on this for a while, narrow down your focus to a few practical things that you could start doing right now. It might also be useful to reflect on whether or not the way you are currently living matches up with your ‘why.’
The best way to do this is to analyse your actions, such as how you spend your time, money, resources and the way that you interact with the world around you. What are you doing well? What may need to change?
Knowing your ‘why’ gives meaning and purpose to your life. It provides you with a foundation to base your decisions on and it helps you to be a better version of yourself. So what’s you why? Why do you do what you do?
Ethan grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland. He studied at a degree in Applied Theology at Carey Baptist College. He has been pastoring for five years and is currently the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Windsor Park Baptist Church. He loves Basketball, getting out in nature, having a laugh and talking about life and faith.