To Change Course You Need to Know Your “Why”

August 21, 2012 |

Do you know what you’d love to be doing – and why?

I ask because a few weeks ago I sent a survey to people interested in taking my upcoming training program to be a Profiting from Your Passions(R) career coach.

I was curious to know things like, “What appeals to you about training to do this kind of work?” And, “Why do you think you’d be good at helping people come up with ways to make money doing what they love?”

Essentially these are “why” questions.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re considering training to be a pastry chef or a dog trainer or an auctioneer. You need to know your why.

In the case of my potential trainees, answers generally fell into three categories.

  1. They love the idea of helping people.
  2. They love the idea of getting paid to do what comes naturally.
  3. Or both.

Here’s a small sample of what they said:

I LOVE to do this. I think most people have a flawed mindset that dissociates money earning with doing what they love. The 2 are highly compatible. I believe that. Firmly. Alicia

I’m always helping people. It would be nice to be compensated for something I love to do. Shelly

I seem to attract people who need the information I have. I get called the ‘go-to’ person in my circle. Lee

Through the years, people ask me for advice on “what to do” with their life, and in certain situations. I tend to think “outside the box.” Many times I have suggestions that they would never have thought of. Debra

I am always giving advice to people in reference to their business dreams, about the things I have learned through reading and searching the net. Violeta

I excel at ideation, I’m a very good listener, and I’m good at helping people accept new ideas and perspectives. Kim

I absolutely love helping other people find ways to turn their passion into a career. I find myself getting engulfed in a sea of ideas any time someone mentions their dream career to me. I feel so excited and compelled to just start rattling off ideas about how they could market themselves, etc.

Sometimes people look at me a little funny at first (because of my immediate excitement) but once they realize I’m genuinely excited for them, they start tolisten. Kyra

I have always enjoyed helping people problem solve. I am a natural out of box thinker, and have wanted to start coaching people. Dione

Through the years, people ask me for advice on “what to do” with their life, and in certain situations. I tend to think “outside the box.” Many times I have suggestions that they would never have thought of. Debra

I’m good at discovering things in people that they don’t even see themselves and finding ways that people can monetize their own expertise. I do this often with people but just don’t get “paid” to do it. Roslyn

In different ways all of these answers speak to a future direction.

Sometimes though, the desire to change course comes mostly from where you don’t want to be.

For example, Theresa began by saying, “I’m always giving advice to people about careers that I think would be good for them and many have taking the leap of faith and are doing well.”

Knowing that you’ve already used your gift and talents to help other people is a great “why.”

But then Theresa goes on to say, “I so want to be free from my current job.”

That last line reminded me something I learned some 17 years ago when I too was desperate to get of out my job-job.

Whether you’re in a bad relationship or an unrewarding job, the urge to change course tends to start with a quiet stirring that something is amiss.

Too often, though, we ignore these gentle whispers until the volume becomes so loud we are either forced to act or retreat into a kind of numb denial. I, for one, opted for the latter.

So, seven years and numerous promotions later, there I was on a fast-track heading in the wrong way. Five mornings a week I awoke to the insistent buzz of an alarm clock jarring me from my peaceful world of dreams long before I was ready.

As I dragged myself out of bed, I’d mentally note the number of days between then and blessed Friday.

The problem was not about the workload or the people. In fact I really liked my co-workers.

The problem was that the course I was on was taking me farther and farther away from myself and from my truth.

I had no clue as to what that was. So I accepted a job at a small company closer to home. A move I now describe as the career equivalent of changing deck chairs on the Titanic.

But nothing helped.

More and more I found myself staring wistfully out my office window longing for a life that allowed me to attend to the things that really matter – the people I love, quiet reflection, exercise, fulfilling work, causes I believe in.

The walls of denial were starting to crumble.

It was in the solitude of the office stairwells, away from people and phones where my own whispers of discontent first reached a dull roar.

With each step I chanted, “I’ve got to get out of here” over and over as if the words themselves could magically transport me to another place, a different reality.

You Can’t Get There From Here

I didn’t fully grasp it then, but “here” embodied more than a particular job or company. It was a lifestyle built around the need to follow someone else’s schedule, play by someone else’s rules, and achieve someone else’s goals.

It’s been said that the only real success is to be able to spend your life in your own way. This was the direction I needed to go, yet I couldn’t seem to get there.

There’s an old joke about a tourist who stopped to ask an old Vermont farmer if he’s on the right road to get to Bennington. “E-yup,” said the farmer. “But you can’t get there from here.”

The same can be said about how I was approaching my life.

Because my stairwell mantra focused on what I didn’t want, I’d unwittingly set up a psychic roadblock. Until I’d formulated a clear picture of my desired destination, I most probably wouldn’t be able to get there – at least not from here.

But, when my emotional focus shifted from “here” – current life – to “there” – a new life that embodied the truth of who I was and the elements I deemed essential to a contented life – something truly remarkable happened.

All the energy I’d been squandering complaining about the present was suddenly available to turn toward the task of creating the life I really wanted.

In the end it is your “why” that sustains your dream. Your vision of what could be is the wellspring from which you draw the courage to take those first bold steps to change course from where you are… to where you want to be.

So… What’s YOUR why?