‘Why’ Not ‘What’ The Key To What To Be?


There are all kinds of jobs in this world from the mundane to the adventurous, from the physically straining to the mentally stimulating. Some require stamina to do the same task day after day and some require imagination and innovation to create new possibilities through trial and error. The tools to perform jobs can range from swinging handheld items to operating massive machinery; from a simple pencil to a robotic arm. There are a myriad of jobs out there, be they in cities of stone and glass, forests of green or pastures of gold.

And for every job, there are people best suited to do them. Some of us are physically strong, others the thinkers, the visionaries, recorders of history, we’ve leaders and followers, labourers and intellectuals. When it comes to work, we as a species engage in all kinds of activities, in all kinds of working conditions, be it water, on or under the land, the air or even space.

Often what we do for work is largely determined or influenced by where in the world we are born and then raised, the status of our family, the inclination of those who care for and influence us to expose us to a few or many different kinds of experiences. When we are born, where we are born, to whom we are born; all factor in to the opportunities we have.

There are those of course who will tout that you can be anything you put your mind to, and they may be right – if of course you are born into a society where you have the freedom to choose and the opportunities are there to seize. This freedom to be anything, aspire to be everything we want – limited only by our imagination and our own determination is empowering! Yet, this seemingly limitless potential can also have an unexpected and adverse affect.

With so many choices of what we might do with the time we have, it can be debilitating and paralyzing. After all, what if we get it wrong? What if we choose one career and work towards it only to discover that it doesn’t bring us the fulfillment that we’d hoped. While it makes others happy we know, it doesn’t bring us the satisfaction they promised it would. We believed them when they said we’d find it gratifying and rewarding, but it hasn’t turned out that way. At least we tried it! Or what if we simply arrived at a crossroads having to choose between 2, 3 or 4 possible careers that seemed mutually exclusive – very different indeed – and being unable to commit to one ‘dream’ occupation for fear of turning our back on the others, we’ve simply found ourselves immobilized – and in a flash, years have rolled by and we’re still standing still undecided?

There’s this immense fear we’ll get it wrong. Of course, some would say, “Ah, but what if we get it right?!” We might be amazing in what we do and more importantly even if we’re just an average worker in what we’ve chosen, we could still be extremely happy and satisfied. But would we possibly wonder, “What if I’d chosen that other path in life? What might I have done?”

Of course we aren’t limited to one career.  Think on that… Up until we’re in our late teens, we don’t have to be anything largely but a student – well, again – depending on where we are born in the world. In our early 20’s we begin to ‘be’ something. We who are older know this isn’t a life-long obligation; we’ll change jobs and careers during our life and some of these new choices will be in the same field and at times into a new one. After maybe 40 years of work, we might plan on ceasing to ‘work’ for pay and then work for play. Well, that’s some people’s plan.

Talk with enough people and you’ll find competent, skilled people performing their jobs without the least bit of enthusiasm for the job. Good enough to keep doing what they do, benefitting the companies and the people they work on behalf of, but no longer stimulated and in love with the job. They’ve become comfortable, their income and lives stable, and so they live out their lives.

There are those too who take chances; who quit jobs for fear they’ll become stale in them, who seek fresh challenges, new opportunities, gamble on trends and being out front as frontiers. They need not explore new lands, but they reinvent themselves, never-ceasing to learn and place themselves in the process to seize upon possibilities.

We’re all so different, so uniquely, ‘us’.  What one finds pleasurable, rewarding, stimulating and satisfying might do for another or not. The key is perhaps to find out not what job we want to do, but why it is we want to do it. Toddlers may have it right when they ask incessantly, “Why?”

When we discover the, ‘why’ in why we want to do something, we are closer to discovering the ‘what’. How peculiar it might be if instead of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which locks us into a single profession, we asked, “What motivates you? What inspires or stimulates you?” These are the what’s that get to the why’s.  Then we might discover there are many jobs that would equally stimulate us by fulfilling our ‘why’s’. That perhaps, is very wise indeed.

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