How to Discover Your “Why”

Sometimes I feel it would be easier to be a member of the animal kingdom rather than humankind. Despite the fact that animals aren’t allowed to wear clothing (in most cases) and have to forage for their food, they live each day without the pressure most humans feel to do something significant with their time on earth. Most days, I’m happy to be a part of a race that values doing good and changing their community, but with the earth so filled with needs, and so many humans gifted with various passions and abilities to use, there are days I wish I could move through on auto-pilot. Days I wish someone would grasp my chin and say, “this is your purpose in life, now go and do that.”

We are lucky, though. We are lucky to have the abilities and talents, and also lucky to have the inclination to use them. The really difficult part is taking the broad range of gifts and interests, trying to match them with the great needs the world presents to us, and narrowing those intersection points down to something we can take with our own two hands.

My favorite quote from writer Frederick Buechner says this: “The place we are called to is the place where your deep passion and the world’s deep hunger meet” (paraphrased). And that’s really the secret to finding our why in this world. Where we are passionate will inevitably match up with a need in the world, and both holes will be filled.

If you’re on a journey to find your way right now, ask yourself a few helpful questions:

When is the last time I felt really impassioned about something I was doing? (Art? Writing? Fundraising? Teaching an exercise class? Volunteering at a local school?) The good news is, our why is tied to our passions. If we are not passionate about animal rescue, we won’t want to expend our time and efforts there. But the opposite will be true for something that we love doing. Our purpose in life will reflect something we are excited about.

What am I naturally good at? What do other people ask me to do? (Organize a craft fair? Prepare a spreadsheet? Bake 60 cupcakes? Foster a kitten? Foster a child?) Likewise, our natural abilities are an indicator for what our passion will be. Imagine a scenario in which we’re very passionate about art but cannot draw, or about singing but cannot carry a tune? It would be terrible! Look to where you already excel, and then build on it; expand it into something that will have a positive ripple effect all around you.

What makes me cry, or makes me angry? (Animal cruelty? The orphan crisis? Underfed school children? The plight of education?) The world issues that are closest to your heart will likely produce either tears or rage in you; that’s the place for which you’ll want to expend your efforts.

These questions are just some ways to start you thinking about how to make your time meaningful. However, life has seasons. What works for you now may be different in one year, or five, depending on each stage of life. What is more, as your life changes—marriage, children, career shifts—the answers to these questions may shift as well. Don’t fret. You’re not an inconstant person that can’t stick to a calling or passion. You’re a complex, beautifully made human that grows and changes, and that’s okay. As long as you are doing something you love, that has a positive effect on the world around you, count it a win.

Until the day we are reduced to the animal kingdom, moving through life based only on instinct and muscle memory, we will be plagued with these questions. Just remember to give yourself grace, try lots of different things, and allow yourself to grow and change if your circumstances dictate it.

Now get out there and change the world.

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