I had lunch with a good friend last week. She’s the type of friend who is able to read me like a book, before I’ve ever said a word–I suspect you have friends like this too. Outwardly, she’s the type who looks like she really has her shit together, but in real life, she’s just as anxious as the rest of us, trying to make sense of everything and find her way. But she knows things, and provides clarity when I can’t see the forest much less the trees.
As we chatted, this constant search of mine for my “Why” came up–why I do what I do, why I chose this profession and this population of kids, why I have a sense of duty to people, to organizations, to order, why it pisses me off so much when people are dishonest, not demonstrating integrity, or otherwise being unkind. It’s been something I’ve been playing around with for a while. I’ve read up a fair bit on the subject, and one of the things that’s key to it is that your why statement should be “evergreen,” meaning that it should encompass both one’s personal and professional lives. I’ve tried in vain for months to figure out how to separate the two, but it seems they are stuck together with each impacting the other.
The template for one’s why looks like this:
To _______________________ so that _____________________.
The first blank is your contribution. The second is the impact of that contribution. Neither blank should be product based, which is incredibly difficult because so much of our lives ARE based in products–what we can give or do for someone else, something tangible. It seems really simple to just write it, but it’s not. The perfectionism within myself won’t let it be a one-draft kind of thing.
Part of the purpose for our lunch, beyond catching up and spending some time together, was to work through the steps in Simon Sinek’s book Find Your Why. He has a great talk that goes along with it too–it’s geared very much toward business, but resonates with me anyway.
It’s hard for me to see myself as a leader in any capacity. I need to put that out there in the name of honesty. My job requires me to be a leader, but there is a constant undercurrent of imposter syndrome with everything I do, every action I take–personally or professionally.
We talked about what makes me most happy. I love preparing a presentation and essentially “lesson planning” how that time might go. I enjoy thinking about what I want the participants to leave me thinking about. I love how I feel after a presentation session that’s gone well. I’m almost high, honestly. And I float for hours. When I was in the classroom, I loved creating units of instruction and testing them to see how they’d go. I never saw unit planning as “work.” It was my chance to be creative and innovate. I enjoy working with teachers to give them ideas to try, resources to incorporate, and information that might make their world a little easier. And I enjoy following up to see how those gifts worked out–did they work? were they tweaked? did they bomb? And then investigating why something didn’t go well is just as rewarding for me–problem solving is fascinating.
Something that came up several times during our conversation is the idea of risk–those situations that present themselves as an offer of growth but come with “unknown” attached. My friend noted that she’s noticed there’s a piece of me that likes the idea of taking a risk and doing something new, but at the same time, I’m very apprehensive, wanting to be sure that I do it “right.” She noted that I’m quick to back up when I get feedback that isn’t given with a sense of support behind it, that kind of feedback that is masked criticism. I almost immediately back off, offering to abandon the work altogether or hand it off to someone else others would feel more comfortable with. I’ve gotten better with this only because my current position requires that I grow in this area and get to the point that I’m able to justify choices I make that impact others. Risk is scary, and in some ways, almost terrifying. All the “what ifs” in my anxiety-ridden head come to the party, which creates more drama than is really needed. So far the risks I’ve taken have been productive and I’ve grown, both of which matter very much.
I spent the majority of Spring Break mulling over these conversations and how they apply to my “Why.” The following screenshot popped into my social media feed on Friday, and it spoke to me:
I have no idea who wrote it or what app it came off of so I can’t give credit to the author, but I thought to myself that those words are essentially my Why in a nutshell.
So here’s a draft (because there will be others) of my Why Statement.
To engage in work that impacts the world around me positively so that others can grow, learn, and honor one another.
What does the draft of your “Why” look like?