That seems like a pretty simple question doesn’t it?
Yet, that one word question packs so much power and is often extremely difficult to answer if it is asked in the right context. How do I know this? I experienced it. You see recently a person that I really respect asked me that very question in the right context in relation to my career. When they asked me, I, without taking a moment to think, answered it confidently.
Here is my response:
“I do this job to provide for my family, it pays a good salary and gives me financial stability.”
He stared me in the face, shook his head while giving me a severe stare of disgust, and walked away. That tore me up. For weeks I couldn’t hardly sleep as I was tormented by trying to figure out what made him react the way he did. I thought I gave him a great answer. This was an answer I had heard from my peers my entire life. Finally after being frustrated, to a point beyond I care to share, I picked up the phone and called him to give him a piece of my mind.
I had already planned out my opening in my head:
“Who do you think you are dismissing my opinion on why I do what I do? I could care less about what you think, you arrogant, self righteous bastard!”
I was fired up. I could hear the phone ringing in my ear piece and then someone picked up.
It was his answering machine. He didn’t answer the phone.
I thought about leaving a voice mail but I was way too angry and I didn’t want to leave a trail pointing back to me if he got murdered. I watch a lot of Law and Order and I really don’t want to be falsely accused. Plus he stays in a pretty rough neighborhood. I think even the elderly practice their right to bear arms. I needed to get his input. I called him, emailed him, skyped him, tweeted him, facebook stalked him and even did something so archaic that I was even impressed. I mailed him a letter.
Even with my attempts to reach him via pony express, he was nowhere to be found. So, instead of trying to find him, I started focusing more on the question he asked me.
In reflection that question was deep. It went well beyond the pay, well beyond the surface level physical and material things, well beyond my so called thoughts of stability, but it dealt with the heart. We invest more time working than we do any other activity in our lives other than sleeping. How dare I not have a deeper reason other than it pays the bills.
The way I answered the question the first time made me understand why I performed at work the way I did. For a long time I did just enough not to get fired but good enough to get a raise. If my job was compared to a battlefield I would be the guy in the fox hole crying while the rest of my platoon was charging forward. I wanted to survive, not be the hero. Some hero’s have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
After I reflected on the question, like I believe I should have in the first place, my answer became a lot more fulfilling. My why was answered with a why not, if not me who, and was tied to a purpose. If I had a chance to answer that question today I would say, “Because I change lives.”
Immediately after my purpose fell in place my performance escalated. It wasn’t because I was tricking people or I had found a loophole. It was because I started to care about the people I came in contact with.
Work can become a repetitious, never-ending, perpetual cycle of wasted time if we lose focus on why we do what we do. If we learn to take a moment to truly reflect on the impacts of the people and things we come in contact with on a daily basis I guarantee our outlook will change. Align your job and your life with purpose and you will be surprised how much you can produce in a short period of time. It is the fastest way to start acheiving goals.
There is nothing that can stop you from having the fulfillment you are entitled to.
I challenge you to ask yourself, why? Then truly take some time to seek out the answer. It will change your life and boost your production. If it worked for me I know it will work for you.
What do you think? Is a purpose enough to make you more productive?