“Once you know your why, you can endure any how” -Viktor Frankl
The quote itself can be effective and determining whether or not we do certain things easily, properly, or at all. Why do you work the job you have? What type of employee are you? Why are certain aspects of life the way they are? What type of person have you grown to be? How do you spend your time every day? What matters to you? If the answers to questions like these come easily and without debate, then the associated actions are usually executed smoothly and pleasantly. But at times of frustration, confusion, hesitation, or difficulty, there could be a way to steer the ship back in the right direction. The key is in identifying the “true” reason, the “new” reason, and the “you” reason. With these concepts in mind, the WHY can help with the HOW.
Usually we do things for a reason we tell people, but then there is a “true” reason that is not as simple. Maybe you say you work for money, but the true reason is to provide a life for you and your family. Maybe you say you exercise to stay in shape, but the true reason is to enjoy keeping up with your more energetic loved ones or to prevent the bullying that you experienced years before. Maybe you say you tolerate the company of a family member because you care about them, but the true reason is the guilt you feel for not supporting them at a previous time of vulnerability. Some of these true reasons could be buried deep in the past waiting to erupt into the present, while some true reasons have been showing up from time to time for as long as you can remember. Either way, keying in on the “true” reason will help push along any “true” strategy that supports it.
Equally as important could be the “new” reason things don’t happen the way they were planned. Perhaps you were planning for a vacation but then a family member needed some medical treatment and that became the new priority. Or you meant to call someone to remind them you were going to be late for an appointment but then your car or phone battery died so you were faced with a decision that might leave them waiting for longer than necessary. Maybe you were rearranging your schedule to get to the store before they closed but then realized that whatever you needed could wait until a more appropriate time. The world is full of circumstances that are beyond our control so all we can do is be aware of these ever-changing conditions and adapt accordingly. If we have an opportunity to minimize collateral damage and salvage remains then we should certainly make an attempt. If not, then time will move on and our resources would be best utilized in staying present and preparing for what’s next. Learning from the past is one thing, but trying to undo the past is an illusion that only fools attempt. The “new” reason could birth the “new” plan, which is not a bad thing.
In the Viktor Frankl quote above, there’s a critical word that a lot of readers overlook: “your”. Ultimately, the “true” reason and the “new” reason are to be determined by only one person: you. The “you” reason for what you do is the ONLY one that matters. You can take mental notes from external sources (media, colleagues, etc) and maybe some are impactful enough to influence the “you” reason, e.g., my wife’s suggestions. However, you alone have exclusive ownership of the “you” reason which means you are absolutely accountable for your own actions. Sometimes the world may put you between a rock and a hard place, but the “you” reason will determine how you handle that situation; and the consequences are yours and yours alone. Some of us spend too much of life thinking that the world is out to get us, but we are not exempt from the consequences of our own actions. Conversely, the world also gives us opportunities to succeed and it is up to us to make the most of those situations. With regard to how anyone else feels about our actions, as long as you are not breaking the law or causing harm to anyone, these justifications are optional. You owe no one an explanation, no matter how much anyone feels they deserve one. If you provide one, then it is the result of a “you” reason. Everything you do should be for a “you” reason and it goes without saying that your actions may lead to actions of others that have their own “them” reasons for doing whatever they do.
This is to say that we all live the lives we have made for ourselves. Perhaps young children are an exception since they are still under the jurisdiction of their parents, although they are responsible for most of their actions as well. But for the vast majority of us, we are where we are in life because we put ourselves here. The “true” reasons got us started, the “new” reasons kept us going, and the “you” reasons will determine where we end up. This means that all of us, regardless of past experiences or current situations, have the potential to live the exactly the life that we want for ourselves. We have the power. That is the point.