As usual, I was flinging together some last minute stuff to hit the road for the three and a half hour drive to Portland, where the training was held. I realized as I was about to head out the door that I had forgotten to do some important preparatory homework. I wanted to be as primed and ready for this experience as possible, so I felt it was worth it to leave a few minutes later in order to be completely prepared for the training. I pulled up the MS Word document with the homework questions and poised myself to fling out some answers.
Ha! Let me give you a little sampling of the questions on this form:
What accomplishment must occur during your lifetime so that you will consider your life satisfying and well lived – a life of few or no regrets?
What would a fulfilling life be for you? What do you want? What would make your life more fulfilling? What would it take to be fulfilled today? What’s missing in your life?
There were seven more question series’ similar to these, exploring things like my five-year goals, my spiritual life, and my relationship with time, money and people. I’m a deep-thinking type and love powerful inquiry but even I was overwhelmed by the intensity of these questions (or more accurately, overwhelmed by the soul-searching they call forth.) Since I only had about fifteen minutes, my soul had to step up quick and punch out some answers.
At first I thought this was a terribly unfortunate circumstance.
I thought that I’d be missing out on the opportunity to answer some transformational questions really powerfully. As I flung into writing action, though, I realized that this time constraint was serving me quite well. My over-analyzing nature – and the stuckness it can inspire – often gets me pretzeled up (you know, tied up like a pretzel) when I have too much time to ponder these kinds of big questions.
The answers that revealed themselves shocked me.
I was totally unprepared for the things that flung from my mind, to keyboard, to printed paper. I’m a huge business fanatic. I love to read about business, marketing, entrepreneurship… I am also a mom. While I have been very deliberate about spending a lot of time with my daughters, I have never ventured seriously into a kid-centered business. And yet, all of my answers to these questions directly involved children. I’d answer one question – shake my head in surprise, then venture on to the next, sure that it would take me in a different direction. But there was no doubt about it: the big questions for me come down to the care and compassion adults show with their children.
I was out of time.
So, I took my printed answers and flung into the car and hit the road. Still reeling from my revelations, I was feeling anxious that I was about to blow up my whole business model. I have been working long and hard for three years to create the path I’m on now (a winding road it’s been, too!) and the thought of totally scratching it made me feel nauseous.
Long drives are such a gift.
Fortunately, I had three and a half hours to myself in the car to explore this unexpected new situation. So, I did what I always do when I need to know what I think. I started talking out loud. (Yes, that’s me in the car talking to myself down the road. No, I’m not on a hands-free phone – but you don’t know that…)
Turns out, I’ve been on target the whole time.
What I realized as I explored these questions more deeply on my drive was that all of this stuff about wanting to help others take better care of the children in their lives was about something less concrete than my business offering. When I checked in with myself, I felt clear I didn’t want to actually work with parents to help them communicate effectively and lovingly with their children (though I certainly love that cool people are out there doing that.)
Now, I know Why.
I realized that facilitating compassionate and loving care for children is my Why. It’s the deep, core Contribution I want to make in the world. It’s the thing I’d stand at the center of the fire on behalf of – and not shrink back.
Yet, my strong desire is still to help people in business be more powerful and effective communicators in their businesses – to help them create the life the truly want to live, doing work that reflects their passion and strengths.
My Why Is Not My What.
So, I’m feeling a bit perplexed by this crazy ride my mind is taking as I drive to Portland (while focusing very intently on driving very carefully, of course.) But you know that feeling you get when you are about to realize something important? It reminds me of the feeling I used to have as we pulled into the tunnel on the train ride at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk when I was a kid. Exhausted from all of the excitement, often feeling overstimulated and happy but ready to be done with the ride (at least for a bit), the darkness of the tunnel and the smooth slowing of the train felt both peaceful and anticipatory. I knew this ride was over but I also knew another would begin very soon, and I was differently excited to see what that might be.
Back to the car ride to Portland last week and the realization forming in my mind.
Suddenly, I got it. My Why Is Not My What.
And that changed everything.
Here’s how my Why plays out in my life: I help adults become more powerful, effective business people (usually centered around their communication, but reaching all the way out to setting Vision and Strategy in their careers or businesses) so that they go home more peaceful, more empowered. If they feel more peaceful and empowered because they are so much more effective at work, that peaceful feeling translates into their interaction with their kids (or the little ones in their lives, if they aren’t parents themselves.) Maybe they read them an extra book at bedtime. Possibly they listen to an extra story about school. They wrap their arms around a kiddo one extra time – because they feel great about themselves and their lives.
Yep, all because I helped them get where they want to be in their business or career.
That’s Why I do what I do. It makes me giddy thinking about it. In fact, it feels so powerful in my life that I have come to call it my SuperWhy.
I wonder – what’s your Why?
Thank you, Spanglishbaby, for this fabulous SuperWhy image.