In the world of business and entrepreneurial practice, this is a question we are asked to think about, because if you know your why, you are more likely to take the actions needed to get you to your where or what.
But it applies in other parts of life too, including learning to live more simply or sustainably.
Let me show you how, using my Norwex business as an example.
Norwex is a party plan business, which means that although I am in business for myself, I have an “upline” of other consultants, which includes leaders in the Norwex business. My 2 or 3 times removed leader in Queensland, Linda Pearce, recently organised Lindsay Baigent to go along to a training they were having up there, and she’s now organised for her to also come and do some training with the team down here. Yippee! One of the questions Linda talked about her asking was “What is your Why?”
This got me thinking. Why Norwex products? Well that’s easy – I love them and am passionate about sharing them and making a difference in people’s lives. Okay, but why the Norwex business? Why do I get up in the morning and keep working it?
So there are two sides to this. One is wanting to make a difference in the world. I’ve written before about how I was looking for a way to make a living doing something I am passionate about – helping to change the world! With Norwex, I am doing that. Now, I’m not limiting myself to Norwex – this blog is about other things too, and I also have another book in the pipeline (though notably, of those three things, Norwex is the only thing that will actually pay my bills!).
But the other side is about being in control of my life and having the flexibility to work the way I want to.
When my lovely local leader, Rachelle, asked this question on facebook, people said things like “so I can run my job around the needs of my children” or “so I can give my kids swimming lessons, without needing to worry about where the money will come from” or even just so they could buy the occasional treat, without having to “go back to work” with all that entails in terms of childcare arrangements and so on.
All that is true for me too, but the BIG thing for me is control. The most frustrating thing about working for an employer (and for me it was the public service but it could be any employer really), is that my part-time hours were always fragile and had to be renegotiated yearly, and at the same time, as long as I was less than four full days, I was never really taken seriously or able to advance professionally. I worked in a few different departments from when I went back to work after Liam was born, to when I left last year, and although attitudes to part-timers and opportunities were vastly different in different areas, those two facts were pretty constant.
Now, I can work as many or as few hours as I like. I can cut back for school holidays, or if Chris needs to work extra for a while, or I can work extra if we need a bit of extra money. No-one is going to ask me when I’m going to increase my days or chide me for working part-time, and in fact the vast majority of people in this industry do so, whether they are working around a family or another job, or around study.
There’s STACKS of training, and I don’t have to compete for training dollars with full-time workers, because it’s provided to me for free.
In short, I am no longer a second-class citizen in my chosen profession, and I have full control over my days and hours of work. That just makes a world of difference to how relaxed I am about life in general, and work in particular. At the same time, in May – my fourth month in the business – I had the 3rd highest sales of any consultant in the ACT. I could do that because I am LOVING what I am doing, and I know exactly why I am doing it.
Okay, I may be gushing a little, so let’s move on
The question is, what’s your why for sustainable or simple living? What’s your why, and what ‘hows, whats and wheres’ does that lead to? For instance, is it for your health? For your children’s health? For the koalas? For the people living in countries that will be under water if the ocean rises as much as expected?
In terms of your practice of living more simply or more ‘sustainably’, if you can figure out you ‘why’ it might just make it easier to accomplish.
For me, the environment has always been an important passion, but if I take it to its root, it is perhaps more about social justice than anything: for future generations, for populations whose environment is being polluted now so that we can have our luxuries, for people who will die of diseases born of too many toxic chemicals in their environment, that they haven’t even used themselves, for children who suffer allergies, asthma and eczema as a result of using products that the adults in their life assume are safe – after all, they sell them in the supermarket! I’m not sure that I care as much about the destruction of a particular frog species* or forest for itself, but more for what it means for global environmental destruction and how that will affect future generations, and indeed my own children and perhaps grandchildren.
There are other aspects to my why, including what I want for my children and the sort of role model I want to be for them, and values I want to impart, but I think social justice probably remains at the heart of it.
But, you can also take it down to a lower level – what’s your why for cutting your electricity use? Okay, maybe it’s to do your bit to prevent catastrophic climate change, but as a family, maybe you could also use the money you save to go on a holiday. You can have several ‘whys’ and sometimes bringing it right down to the level will make something easier to achieve.
So what is your why? Do you know?
*At the same time, I do actually care about any individual frogs who are suffering – losing their homes, getting bull dozed, being poisoned by toxic chemicals etc.
This post was shared – along with loads of other lovely posts – over at Essentially Jess, who has been camping