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Define Your Why

On a recent trip to the upper Great Lakes, I was both on vacation and on high alert for a remote job interview I eventually wouldn't be selected for; it wasn't as relaxing as I had hoped. I was excited about the possibilities of the job and while I am not actively looking for anything, the opportunity was aligned with where I want to go. When I found out that I would not be moving to the finalist round, I was surprised by my level of disappointment. It took most of the vacation and a pep talk from my wife to get back in my groove.

In a nutshell, the pep talk came down to this sentiment about myself: the where is not important, it is the why that matters.

By defining your reasoning behind decisions you make, you can also help to align and prioritize everything that comes to your attention. For me, apparently, hearing my own why spouted back to me can also help blunt the pain of disappointment. I am not defined by the job or title, I am defined by the alignment of my why with the outcomes of my work.

Without a defined why, there are fewer motivational factors to complete things you start and fewer reasons to struggle through the difficulties, to edit and publish. Existential or mundane questions can be reframed when you define why you do things. "What does this failure say about me?" is not a question that a person with a defined why and conviction to it needs to ask.1 "Should I write this blog post?" becomes "Does this idea fit within the context of why I have this blog and is it worth my time?" 2

I left social media because of the ease of forgetting to interrogate the why. Few people ask why they are Facebook friends with someone they never talk to or viscerally disagree with; even fewer people, it seems, think before they post any inane thought to Twitter. The mechanism actually matters less than the intent to be thoughtful about your contributions to the world.

I have interrogated my own why throughout the years on this site, even if only tangentially at times and I will continue to do so. With how consistent the neglect of thoughtfulness is around us, perhaps now is the time to define your why and start building something that aligns with it.

  1. Failure need not be seen at all as definitive to who you are when you already know.

  2. Yes.