Why

He who has a why can endure any how.” – Nietzsche

The other day I was driving with Mr. D in the car and he saw a church steeple and asked what it was.

Me: That’s a church steeple.

D: Why?

Me: It’s that’s a traditional part of a that kind of church architecture.

D: Why?

Me: We have churches so that people can celebrate God.

D: Why?

Clearly, Mr. D is squarely in his why phase. To me it feels as if he’s figured out a way to carry on a conversation without having an extensive amount of words. But it’s fitting because I’ve been working on finding my “why.” My why – as in the core motivation and pervasive central theme of what I do.

As author Simon Sinek says in Find Your Why, “Each of us has only one WHY. It’s not a statement of who we aspire to be; it expresses who we are when we are at our natural best.”

There are different schools of thought of how to find your why. Social scientist and Harvard professor, Arthur Brooks (From Strength to Strength) suggests that we finding it by cultivating moments of stillness and meditating on it. Author Simon Sinek (Find Your Why) recommends a structured approach where we tell the formative stories of our youth (because he says our why is formed by our late teens) in order to form a statement that looks like:

To _<insert the contribution you make the lives of others>_ so that _<impact of your contribution>_.

Combining the two approaches, I have reflected on what stands out from my early years. I had a happy and stable childhood so I thought I didn’t have many stories but opening up the discovery uncovered this moment when I was about to start high school. My dad, a Presbyterian pastor, ask me to go for a walk when we were on vacation at a lake cabin. As we walked, he offered to change his job if it would make it easier for my teenage years.

While I responded honestly that his job didn’t bother me at all, I also noted that he was saying this because my older sister had pummeled him with rebellion and hurt during her journey through high school. I vowed to do it differently so he and my mom would know they were good parents. Which wasn’t hard because they were and I was a very different kid than my sister.

Distilling this and other memories down to what drives me now and why, I came up with this “Why” statement:

To encourage and cheer for others so that they feel supported and emboldened in the pursuit of life in the fullest on their individual paths.

Thinking back, I remember my mom warning that I shouldn’t be a caretaker. That certainly could be a pitfall to my “why.” I prefer to think that in telling my story in how I’ve done it differently – whether it be finding a different expression of faith than my parents or choosing to become a single parent, I can help others to know they can find their own paths too.

As Mr. D will tell you, knowing why is a great way to dig deeper into the meaning of things.

(featured photo from Pexels)

What’s Next

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” Robert Byrne

Several months back when I wrote a post about performing for likes, Ab of the My Lovable Pest blog, made a comment that he had turned off notifications for when people like a post. I thought it was a pretty good suggestion so I modified the notifications on my own blog so that I don’t receive notifications when people click “like.”

It had a funny effect. At first, I really missed getting the emails that “[alias] liked your post and went on to say “They thought [post name] was pretty awesome.” Actually, they didn’t necessarily think it was awesome – they “liked” it. But more to the point, I had to go through the withdrawal of not getting those dopamine hits in my inbox.

Eventually I got used to it and it led me to focus more on the comments I was getting which was a far more meaningful experience of interaction around any particular topic whether it was something I wrote or I was commenting on something someone else wrote.

But then I started writing for the Pointless Overthinking blog. On Wednesdays, I publish a post on that blog with 27,404 followers. And the settings for that blog are tuned differently so that I do get the “likes” for that post, usually about 100/week.

That felt pretty great for the first few posts but then it morphed into a feeling of “what’s next?” A feeling that Harvard professor and social scientist Arthur Brooks describes as success addiction. We get to a new level and it feels pretty great – and then we adjust to that level and look to the next thing.

His cure for success addiction is to know our “why.” By being deeply rooted in our why, we can hope to get off the treadmill of looking for the next thing because we are grounded in our mission.

The why of my blogging has evolved over time. I’d say that I blog because it helps me process the depth and delight of my experience in life. I find something that I learn or see or feel in a day and by writing about it, I burn it in a little deeper. And when I talk about it with people through comments, I get the gift of seeing it through others’ eyes.

Puzzling through this helps me move through that “what’s next” blah because I remember that what’s next is another conversation with my delightful blogging friends.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Practicing Gratitude

The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.” – Mary Davis

Yesterday I my daughter and her friend wanted to ride their bikes to school. So I loaded up my toddler on the back of my bike, threw my mask and wallet in a small backpack and shepherded them through the route we’d planned. After we dropped them off, I rode my toddler the rest of the way to his daycare.

After coming back home and finishing the essential work items I needed to get done, I drove to the store to do the weekend grocery shopping. I loaded my basket with all sorts of yummy fall weekend ingredients – for pumpkin bread, homemade chicken soup along with crisp, juicy apples and crunchy green grapes. I opted for the self-checkout line, scanned the bottle of wine I’d selected as my first item and then hunted in my purse for my wallet to show the attendant.

I didn’t have my wallet. It was still in the bike riding backpack.

As I drove the 7 minutes home to get it while my groceries waited patiently with the attendant, I was grateful that I had enough time to do the extra trip back and forth in a quiet car that felt like a driving meditation.

As I drove the 7 minutes back to the store, I was grateful that the wine was the first thing I’d scanned.

And when I arrived back at the store, I was grateful that the basket of items that I’d carefully selected was still waiting for me.

It’s true what they say, practicing gratitude makes it easier to find, even when you’ve forgotten the other things you need.