What is your why?

June brings the end of the school year and graduation time. All over the country students will walk a stage and get a piece of paper signifying the end of one season of life and the beginning of another. After the ceremony and the celebration these students will then be asked the same question: ‘So what are you going to to do now?’

Whenever I hear this question I purse my lips, close my eyes and take a deep breath because I think the question is asked with the wrong focus. The people asking the question usually don’t care about the answer and are just making small talk. Making a transition between life phases shouldn’t focus on what they are doing, but rather focus on why they are doing it.

If a student decides to going to college they should know why. Hopefully their why isn’t just because their parents tell them they have to. If a student says they will look for a job they should know why. If they say they are going to ride a unicycle accross every state in the union they should know why. When the excitement of the choosing fades into challenges and struggles of everyday life your why is what will keep you going.

The same rings true for anyone already past the graduation days. Why are you doing what you do? Whatever it is that you spend your finite time and energy on, make sure you know why you’re giving yourself over to it.

Here’s my why

“Why are you doing this?” I ask myself this question all the time. I make a habit to examine what I’m doing and make sure it aligns with my ‘why’. Why do I build WordPress plugins? Why do I work remotely instead of in an office? Why have I quit every job I’ve had? Why did you sell your house?  The reason I do things can be summed up by the phrase:

My ‘why’ is to spend as much time as I can with my family while traveling the world, serving others and and doing work I enjoy.

Time with family

I’m the dad of three small kids. My kids will grow up and one day they will move out of our house. I have little control over that. It’s coming whether I want it to or not. What I do have control over is how much time I spend with them while they are young and living in our home.

The first part of my why is spending as much time as I can with my kids while they are young. That also includes spending time with my wife Amanda. Because of this I choose work that doesn’t require me to be away from my family for long periods of time. (Ironic that I’m writing this while spending a few days at a beach house full of WordPress folks.)

Whatever I do has to allow for a lot of time with family.

Travel the world

The next part of my why is traveling the world serving others. For the past two years my wife and I have been trying to define what it is to be Digital Tentmakers – someone who earns a living online while doing missions work. We’ve made choices like selling our home, living a minimalist life, and making a living online outside of a traditional employer. Some people understand what we’re doing while others look at us like we’re crazy.

These choices haven’t been easy, but when faced with uncertainty and doubt I’m able to go back to my why and everything makes sense.

Do work I enjoy

While discussing my career with someone I never want to say the phrase “I don’t like it, but it pays the bills.” Humans were made to do work and be fulfilled by it. Life’s too short to be stuck in a job you hate. I’ve loved computers since I was an elementary school kid. Getting to spend my days solving problems and building software is a dream come true!

The last part of my why is to do work that I enjoy. This allows me to make choices about work like being connected to the WordPress community, not having an employer to maximize autonomy, and turning down projects that don’t interest me.

I’ve gotten over the possibility that decisions I make may seem strange to others because I know that all I need to do is align my choices with my ‘why’.

What about you? Everyone’s ‘why’ is different. Have you examined your life choices recently? Why are you doing what you do?