The Power of “Why”
She looked frazzled. Tired. As I spoke to her, her eyes were a like portal into her mind – through which I could see all the balls she was frantically juggling. She was in a million places at that moment. Not with me at all.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “You seem stressed.”
“It shows?” she sighed, defeated.
“A little. What’s going on?”
As she unpacked her life in a mind-bending 30 seconds – last minute client-emergencies, travel plans, volunteer commitments, family crisis, contractor-issues – I could see she was flooded. Like so many of us, life’s commitments had hit a frenzied pace and she was drowning in overwhelm.
“I’m crazy-busy and I’m not enjoying any of it,” she confessed. “I feel like I just want to run-away.”
As she was talking I could feel the pressure – my chest grew tight, my breathing shallow, my mind starting to swim in response. I had been there before – more than once – and my muscle-memory was kicking in. A visceral reminder of what a painful place that can be.
In today’s world, with so many demands on our time and energy, it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of to-dos. While there are many pithy quotes out there making the social media rounds (that I admittedly “like”) leading us to believe that we can choose our way out of overwhelm, for most of us human beings, I think that’s pretty aspirational. In my experience, the choice tends to follow the feeling, because the feeling overtakes us before we can see it coming. For me, when I find myself caught in the currents of overwhelm, I know I need to go back to “why”.
Why am I doing this? For the sake of what?
In OnStage one of the biggest things we talk about is getting clear about the impact we want to have outside ourselves. To answer the question “What do I stand for?” To name it – for when we can name it, we can do something about it. We can course-correct to get back on track. It re-energizes us. It gives us courage when our courage is waning. It helps us pull ourselves out of overwhelm’s under-tow and get back to doing the work we were put on the planet to do.
“I’m sorry you’re feeling like that, ” I said, giving her a big hug. “I’ve been there, and I know it’s not fun…. Out of curiosity, what got you into healthcare to begin with?”
“Oh, that’s easy! When I was a kid I loved…”
And after 20 minutes of talking about the reason why she does what she does – about the impact she wanted to make – I could see the light come back into her eyes – a spark of excitement reignited. It wasn’t going to change everything overnight, but it was a very good start.
Ask yourself: Why do I do what I do? What is the impact I want to have on my (employees/clients/ company/community/etc.)? I do what I do for the sake of what?
For the best antidote to the forces that toss us about can’t be found in our refrigerators, in the shopping malls or the gym. It can’t be found in a magazine or even on-line. There’s only one place you can get it and it won’t be easy to access – but it’s worth it when you do.
For when you find your why you’ll realize…
“You’ve always had the power, my dear. You’ve had it all along.”
©OnStage Leadership, 2013; Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. If you found this helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring please “recommend”, “Like” and share. It is only through your generosity that we can reach those who may find it valuable too.