Celebrating the Joy in Your Why

by Julie Carter, Associate Director of College Counseling, Episcopal School of Jacksonville

“Celebrating the Joy In Your Why” was going to be the theme of our 2020 SACAC Conference. However, our annual gathering of professional development, networking, and fellowship had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Many of us have had to quickly pivot or reimagine work that feels so familiar we could do it in our sleep to fit the new paradigm of Work From Home and remote learning. As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” So here we are in a new how…but do we know our whys?

Odds are, you’ve heard someone say: “Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That sounds great. Who wouldn’t want to do what they love all day, every day? However, such a lofty goal can be problematic. It suggests that for each of us there exists a magical job that will create joy. It suggests that happiness is something you find. Something that happens. Not something you have a part in creating. Not to mention, society conditions us, in many ways, to focus on the downsides of our jobs (“death by meeting”, “the daily grind”, etc.) which can overshadow the joy.

Rather, I suggest a slight rephrasing of the above adage: “Find love for your job and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Think of it as a professional riff on the Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Love the One You’re With.” To find love or joy in your work, it may be helpful to define your individual why (your mission, your purpose) and look for the ways each how is serving your why.

So, how do you do that? Here are a few things you can try to help you to find your why, find joy in your why, and celebrate the joy in your why.

  1. Write a personal mission statement – Think about what you value and how you want to impact the world. Keep it short and simple. Your statement can then serve as an internal compass to help you see how your work aligns with your mission (your why) or to make adjustments to better fulfill your mission. Some sample statements: “To help others find their best,” “To create opportunities for students,” “To positively impact the life of every person I meet,” “To provide support to others and make their work easier.”
  2. Cultivate a growth mindset and follow your curiosities. Continue developing your talents and seek to learn new things, even if not immediately related to your job. Be willing to take risks, introduce new ideas, or reimagine existing processes. The attitude and thought process alone can be beneficial; think of learning as “brain training.” Embrace challenges and use them as opportunities to grow and find alignment with your why. Look for meaning and fulfillment in what you do daily, celebrating the joy in those moments and work to create more.
  3. Practice gratitude. Researchers have found that gratitude and happiness are strongly correlated. Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. Acknowledging the goodness in life, no matter how small, can help us develop a habit of focusing on the good, even in the seemingly-mundane. Research also suggests that gratitude at work makes us more effective and more engaged. Make note of the people and things that help you fulfill your mission and live out your why.