Every once in a while, I read a blog post that really makes me think. It doesn’t necessarily bring about any new ideas, but it challenges me to reprocess my thoughts from a new perspective. That’s what Get Rich Slowly’s guest post by Justin Martin did for them this morning.
Martin asks “Whats Your Why? The Importance of Find Meaning in Your Life.” He poses that “We need to have a vision of the future so compelling that we can see it even more clearly than the new toys in front of us.”
For the author, his why is to have enough passive income to travel for a year and return in a better financial situation than when he left. (That would be pretty sweet.) But I can’t say that’s my “why.”
He recommends a strategy to figure out your why in the form of 6 questions. I’m going to answer them below. Feel free to do the same on your blog.
- Where have you been happiest?
- What were you doing?
- When you close your eyes and picture yourself incredibly happy, what do you see?
- What makes you forget yourself for hours on end?
- When do you feel best about yourself and your surroundings?
- What do you talk about excitedly?
Where have you been happiest? / What were you doing?
I’ve been happiest when I’m entertaining people. The two times in my life that I’ve been happiest, albeit very different, have included a form of performance that others have responded positively to. One was when I was performing in The Vagina Monologues in college. All of the monologues in that show are great, but there’s one show stopper that requires the actor to perform a variety of orgasmic noises on stage. The monologue is about a lesbian dominatrix, to give you a better idea if you’re unfamiliar with the play. When I performed that monologue I had an audience howling in laughter. Not at me, but with me. And I felt sexy, smart, and funny, and was the happiest I had been in my life thus far.
The other time I was happiest was when I was in Israel (on my Birthright Israel trip) and at a hostel in Masada. I felt drawn to the staircase area, which had a window view of the beautiful dessert, and stood there and sang. Yea, I know, that’s weird. But my voice opened up like never before. And I knew some people would hear me, but I didn’t care. It was the middle of the day. There were few people around. Meanwhile, the acoustics in that staircase were brilliant. I sang for what must have been an hour, though I kind of got lost in time. For the first time in my life, I knew I sounded good. I didn’t sing any particular song, just scales and various patterns of notes, words. At some point a bunch of people came in and applauded for me, which broke me out of my spell. I thought if anything people would be annoyed by my singing, so it was quite incredible to be doing something I truly loved and be appreciated for that.
I also experience moments of happiness when other people respond to something I do in a positive way. It’s like feedback is my drug. (Makes sense that I work in customer service.)
When you close your eyes and picture yourself happy, what do you see?
I see my boyfriend by my side, smiling. I see myself being successful, respected, with enough money where I can spend a little frivolously while still knowing the value of money, and coming home to the man I love.
What makes you forget yourself for hours on end?
Singing. I just wish I had a better voice, I have no confidence in myself. I don’t know if singing in musicals makes me forget myself for hours. I used to think that’s what I want, but I think more spiritual singing is what I enjoy most. Not religious, but just making music without trying to sound like Bernadette Peters or Kristen Chenoweth, just letting my voice come out. That makes me happiest.
When do you feel best about yourself and your surroundings?
When I’m making people laugh, or getting some kind of positive feedback, laughter, applause, captive stares, whichever. I like when people appreciate my being silly. I’ve always been jealous of SNL performers (esp male ones) because they can get away with being such goofballs and do that for a living. I feel good when I’m in charge.
What do you talk about excitedly?
Anything that happens to be my passion in the moment. I admit, my passions are fleeting which can come off as flighty. There are a few things that I’ll always enjoy talking about… the meaning of life, personal finance, myself (hello, I’m a narcissist), sex, and anything that can make someone laugh.
Martin says the next step is to “create a vision that moves you to do things you’ve never done before, and you’ll find yourself in new, wonderful places. Once you have a Why, no matter how unlikely, the How becomes a lot easier and more enjoyable.”
I think also in these why questions, it’s important to ask yourself the opposite for clarity. What have you been least happiest doing? It’s sometimes hard for our “Why” to make sense financially. But what does make sense financially is to figure out what isn’t our “Why.” What is it that makes us miserable, and to avoid that. For instance, I used to think my “why” was to prove to other people that I was intelligent by semi traditional means. I worked for a while as a business reporter interviewing CEOs and VCs, and felt really important. However, the whole thing made me so nervous that I couldn’t spend any time enjoying it. I was miserable with the pressure of constantly introducing myself to people I don’t know, and asking the right questions, all while taking notes I could understand once I got home. Point being, it’s good to know your “why” to help guide you, but it’s equally as important to know what isn’t your why. That’s probably more important in the logistics of life.