lost keys lost whyI lost my “why.” I’m sure I had a minute ago.

It was with me when I left the house, then I went to work, stopped by the grocery store on my way home and now I can’t find it.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

After all, your “why” is not like a pen or a set of keys. Those may be easily lost but they are also easily found (usually in a pocket or purse) or replaced. You don’t have to look really hard for them and these days there are even little tags you can put on your keys so your phone can find them FOR you. Easy.

Your “why”? Not so easy.

What is your “why?”

In a 2013  TED Talk (and a book called Start with Why), Simon Sinek prompted audiences to think about “why” in this way:

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” – Simon Sinek

Maybe you work in the non-profit world. Your motivation may be the value you place on health as a human right, or education, or financial well-being for all. You are driven by an altruism that doesn’t exist in everyone. Giving to others is a deeply ingrained value for you.

If you are in the for-profit world, you demonstrate what you value even if you are working that cubicle-bound day job. Sure, you would really rather be belting out a tune from Hamilton on Broadway or maybe you dream of showing your art work in a gallery. But right now, you value paying off those student loans more. You may not be in love with what you do, but you can still be passionate about why you do it.

Sometimes we lose our “why.”

I did. And because it isn’t as simple to obtain, define or use as a pen or a set of keys, I didn’t realize for a long while that it was missing.

Three years ago, I left a corporate career and became a speaker and a coach because I LOVED doing it. It’s a very unusual career choice. I mean, “I want to be a motivational leadership speaker when I grow up,” said no kid, ever – especially not this kid. Astronaut, doctor, nurse, engineer maybe, but speaker?? Nu-uh.

Yet, here we are: you, reading and I, writing (I’m actually speaking to you but you can’t hear me as I type this).

The Finding of the Lost

The longer the amount of time I spent in this new career, however, the more I let the concern with revenue take hold. This would be fine if my primary value (my primary “why”) was income, but it’s not. I found myself feeling stressed, over analyzing decisions and worrying about the next “right” thing to say, or the next “great” deal to close. Desperation, anxiety and exhaustion crept in where there should have excitement and energy.

Until my husband, who isn’t trained as a coach but who does a darn good job as mine, stopped me dead in my tracks with this question:

“Why are you doing what you’re doing?”

“To make money,” I said.

And this statement:

“If all you wanted was to make money, why don’t you go back to corporate?”

Ah. Touché. I don’t want to go back to corporate.

Why? Because I love to speak in front of groups of people.

Why? Because I love to share a principle, idea or tactic that helps people think about things in a different way.

Why? Because I want people to know that they can do what they think is impossible – whether it’s big or small – and that they can do work they love or love the work they do. People can live an abundant life and I want to help them figure out ways to do that.

That’s why I do what I do.

Remembering the “Why”

My husband’s challenging response reset my mind and I began working from “why” again. I re-focused, rediscovered my creativity,  and regained some productivity along with a positive attitude.

I am not going to lie. I fully expect to lose my “why” again (perhaps more than a few more times). However, I know my truth-tellers will be there to help keep me on track. They are the ones who will remind me that my “why,” often like my set of keys or my pen, isn’t really lost. It will have been in my pocket all along.

Do you know what your “why” is? Are you holding it close or do you need to take a moment and look in your pockets for it? When you have it, let me know what it is. Why do you do what you do?

If you can’t find it and want help looking, I’ll be right here.

Tara Lynn is a speaker, coach and writer who works with companies and individuals to clarify what makes them great and build the confidence they need to achieve success as they define it. She loves to help professionals find the positions, promotions and personal lives they love by sharing practical tips and tools that get them from point A to point C while solving for the mysterious point B. 

Hear Tara’s story and follow her at taralynnfoster.com, on linkedintwitter or Facebook.