It seems one of the most popular questions these days is “What’s your WHY?” Why do you do – or want to do – what you do?
I’ve read this in business books, in self-help books and on blogs. It’s been discussed at live events and over coffee. The overall theory is that if you know why you do what you do, you will make better choices, be more clear about which path to take and be a happier person all around.
At times, it feels like a lot of pressure. What’s my “WHY”??? Can’t my why just be to pay the bills? To go on vacation? To live? Does it have to possess some deep meaning?
WHY is there so much emphasis on “your why”?
While noodling this around in my head the other day I realized that a person’s WHY isn’t a static thing – it evolves and changes and grows with us.
When you are a child, your job is to go to school. Why? To learn about the world, explore your interests, become a good person, learn to be a team player, etc. Growth and education and preparing for the future are your why.
Now let’s look at college students – this is where my son is now. What’s his why… in my eyes, his why is to become more independent, fine-tune who he is and gain the skills he needs to make it on his own upon graduation.
When I was a stay-at-home mom my why was to care for and teach my son. Keep him safe, take care of our home… I was the CEO of the house and protector and educator of my son.
In 2000, when I started designing in the scrapbooking industry my why shifted a little… WHY was I taking time from my “mom / home CEO” duties to design? Because I wanted something more for myself outside of the house – something that I could build, use my business brain and creativity but at the same time, have the flexibility to work from home and do all the other things as well.
My why shifted again in 2004 when I was going through a divorce. I chose to try art licensing – moving from designing within one industry to designing for any industry licensing art. I could have gone a “safer” route and gotten a more traditional job with benefits. But my WHY helped me decide to go out on a limb and see if I could build my own business on my own terms. I didn’t want my then 10-year-old to go from having two parents in the home and me always there to a one-parent home with me in an office from 8 – 5 pm. That would have been a huge change for him and one I didn’t want to thrust upon him with all the other changes and challenges we were facing.
As my business grew my WHY became more clear. My son was getting older so if I chose to get a traditional job it wouldn’t have had as big an impact on him. But I still wanted to work from hom e – I liked seeing him at the end of the school day and knowing what was going on. I also like to be really flexible with my time – if I am inspired to work until midnight I don’t HAVE to be out of bed getting ready to go to an office by 8 – I can sleep in. I like being the master of my schedule, my priorities and my work pace and place. They are a big part of WHY I do what I do.
Now my son is off in Boston – some 3,000 miles away. So working from home to be with or available or keeping track of him isn’t really part of my new WHY.
There are days when I read about people’s WHYs and they seem so much better than mine. (Unfair comparison – beware! It gets us all from time to time) Maybe they seem more philanthropic or seem to have a more heart-based mission… I don’t know. But in the end, we all have our own version of why we do what we do. Understanding why you want to license your art or build an Etsy store or give classes or anything else will certainly help you stay focused and moving towards your goals. But I invite you to give yourself a break and not put undue pressure around it.
Some days your WHY might simply be to pay the mortgage. Other days your WHY might be to help support a worthy cause. My WHY is about the lifestyle I want, the flexibility I enjoy, the creativity and challenges of this business that give me great pleasure 99% of the time.
For all of these reasons and more I create art to license to manufacturers… WHY do you do what you do?
Here’s to your creative success!
– Tara Reed