Aligning the What with the Why


When people ask me what I do for a living, I tend to answer with a questioning statement: “Think about the last time you took a course at work. Was it memorable, or did it actually teach you something? Well, I build those.” (And as a half-joke, I follow up with: “Was it a bad course? I can fix those.”) For a long time this was my elevator pitch, and it worked great. Then one day I realized that even though I said my focus was learning strategy and project management engagements, I seemed to be getting a lot of course development gigs. Even worse, I came to the conclusion that course development projects just didn’t ignite the same passion as before.

The last time I was really engaged with instructional design was the turn of the century. My design aesthetic sometimes reflects that dated look and feel. If I am being honest with myself, I am a little bored with course design. All of that adds up to me not fully engaging with my course design projects. The predictable results were bleeding energy and enthusiasm from other parts of that delicate ecosystem we call work-life balance.

I’m a little ashamed to admit this in such a public forum, but the truth is that it’s nothing my clients and co-workers have not already noticed. I’m blessed with patient co-workers and clients who are pleased with the levels of service and quality that I can deliver. So, with the immediate impact of my disengagement mitigated, the question really becomes “What do you do when what you do doesn’t create the same levels of passion or excitement?”

One of the questions Steve asks in his book, Navigate Chaos, relates to connecting your purpose to your work, and I find it is resonating with me these days. “How can I redesign my job to better align my work with my mission and values?” I have been defining my work in terms of the what I do. So now I’m working to align the what with the why I am doing this.

Thinking through the why took me back to my earliest days in Learning and Development. I know that leading a class is incredibly rewarding to me. I get energy from helping people make connections. Introducing people to just the right bit of information that can help them get over a hurdle that’s been holding them back or linking one team to another so they can support and help each other—that’s the why I became a trainer.

With that in mind, I am in the process of retooling my job description. I don’t talk about course design/development in the same ways. I still do course design projects, but I am bringing a new perspective to them. I’m focusing on the parts of those engagements that give me energy and purpose. I’m also pursuing a facilitator certificate as a way of getting myself back to the thing that I love to do.

As Steve challenges the reader to do in his book, I am redesigning my job in a manner that enhances my job satisfaction and engagement. I am making an intentional effort to capitalize on my personal passions and strengths. If my story resonates with you, what are you doing to find creative ways to craft your job to align with the why? How can you rewrite your job description in a way that connects to the why instead of the you do? Don’t be content with your discontent—CEEK a Better Way!