What To Do When You’ve Lost Your “Why”

Blog post written by The Wisest Women Co-Founder, Dr. Amber Miller

Your “why” is your purpose. It is the passion that drives you each day to get up and do a job that only you are uniquely suited for. My friends and family do a much better job than I at describing my strengths and skills that make me “great” at my job and uniquely suited to do it well. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, I’m actually almost an eternal optimist, but I have a hard time realizing that not everyone is good at the things I am good at. My life lens just assumes if I can do it, anyone or everyone can do it.  

My non-eloquent, non-verbose self would tell you I just try really, really hard, and I want to do a good job. I’m not perfect nor do I really want to be. The scientist in me knows this is an unattainable goal and, therefore, shouldn’t be worried about. However, I do want the things that I do to be done as close to perfect as possible. I know this seems counterintuitive if I just said perfection is unattainable, but perfection is my motivation to do a good job. It is the motivation to continue to work to find solutions to a problem there HAS to be a solution for, even if it seems impossible or unrealistic.This grit and persistence is often all that I feel like I bring to the table. However, thanks to increased reflection time, mentoring, and my incredible support network, I have begun to realize, I have a little more to offer than just perseverance. We all have amazing things that we can offer, but it’s not just what we can offer, but what we can do with all that we have to offer.  

I love my job, but as with most things, it can be challenging and frustrating.  Much of it is trying to come up with ideas for how to help people understand and work through complex situations, so that they can be successful. But I want to help with more than just the here and now, I also want to prepare them for future obstacles. I want to give them the wisdom that when an unexpected challenge crosses their path, that they are capable of kicking that challenge’s butt and getting past it. To use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I enjoy the work that I do, and if you asked me why I do it, it is easy to give a plethora of answers. 1. I want people to have the ability to find their passions and be successful at them. 2. I want people to have the resources they need to be successful. 3. I want to help reduce gender and racial gaps in the workplace. 4. I want people to love science as much as I do. 5. I want to use my unique skill set to leave the world a better place. My whys seem so clear and apparent. They are easy for me to vocalize. Well, as easy as anything is for me to vocalize, which is actually not easy. 

But then life happens. Things don’t go quite as planned, and that’s when doubt creeps in. Am I actually uniquely suited for this job? Am I even making a difference? Maybe I should give up and do something else. I know my friends believe in me and would tell me that I am making a difference. They would tell me that I am uniquely qualified to do this job and so much more. Yet, when the authorities don’t echo the same sentiments, when what seems so logical and important does not seem to be what is valued, it is easy to have doubts, to question your ability, to lose your confidence. To think your friends are just saying nice things because they are your friends. It’s easy to feel lost and unsure. It’s easy to think, maybe I was wrong about my “why”. 

But don’t fall into the pit of despair. You can visit for a minute if you need to because, honestly, sometimes we need to. Then get up and put on your big girl pants because we have some work to do. Use this shake-up to evaluate what matters in your life. Set aside time to think and explore. If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, what would you want it to be? What legacy do you want to leave? When are you the happiest and most excited? What makes you feel productive and like a contributing member of society? What is the one thing you would continue to do no matter how many times someone told you, “You can’t do that” or “NO!”? 

Dig deep. 

Be honest. 

What did you figure out? Did it align with your previous version of “why”? Because that’s what you did. You just found your “why” again. You can’t actually lose it. It can feel like you can, but it is the passion stirring inside you. It can change, and that is awesome! Because as we experience life, as we grow, we may be driven by different things. We can’t expect our 18 year old “why” to match up with our 40 year old “why”. Think of all the life you have lived in those 22 years. We can change our why, enhance it, grow it, but we can’t ever lose it. Sometimes we just need to rediscover it again. 

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