Why Do You Work?

A simple question: “Why do you do what you do?” can lead you to a whole lot of self-reflection and change in your life.

Why Do You Work?

Why do you work? Did  you ever ask yourself this question? What makes you wake up in the  morning, dress up and go to work? What would make you excited to wake up  in the morning, dress up and do go to work?

At the time of writing this I’m 32, married and living in Berlin: a  city that’s still relatively cheap for Western Europe, but getting more  expensive every day, as it turns from the cheap and artsy underdog into a  bustling metropolis everyone wants to live in. I’m over ten years in  the business and went from freelance to agency to product and over again  multiple times. I took major risks, I changed my career path multiple  times but something that never changes is the values I tend to stick to  when choosing the right path.

I ask myself the “Why do I do this?” question every once in a while  when I feel like I’m stuck, and then write down the alternatives, in as  much detail as possible. This helps me focus on what else I could be  doing, do I think it’s worth trying and whether I think the alternatives  would make me more or less excited and happy waking up every morning.  It also lets me figure out the values that are most important to me  right now and that usually come across in all the listed options.  Knowing those basic, deep things, I can reflect whether I have to or  want to sacrifice a bit of things I care deeply about for something  else, like money or stability in life. When you feel like you’re stuck  with your life or career, I highly recommend doing this exercise and  figuring out what the alternatives are for you. The important part is to  write down as much detail as possible, so you can read through and look  for patterns when you’re done — those are values you hold dear and you  should pursue.

For me, those are:

  • family: this is the number one value I always pay  attention to. I probably would be willing to suffer through a lot of  shit work if that meant I can help people I care about. Luckily, with  the booming tech industry, I’m in a position where I can do it while  still doing work that I more or less enjoy right now. If I had to choose  between having just enough money to support myself and my family and  spend weekends with my family or have a lot of money and working every  waking hour, I’ll easily go with the first one.
  • freedom and flexibility: I really enjoy being able  to choose what I work on, where I do and when. This is why I’m really  excited about freelance life and why remote companies really appeal to  me. I like to be in charge of my own schedule and I get really anxious  and annoyed when I’m not. Since my family is always number one priority,  I also like to be able to just drop everything and run to help, if I  have to.
  • honing the craft: I get most kick out of work that  lets me spend enough time to get better at what I already do. Even  though on the outside I might complain about how hard and annoying  something is, I’m really, really excited when I get to learn new things  and try different approaches.
  • interesting problems: I thrive on solving problems I care about. I really don't mind putting in hours if it's a problem I want to crack and feel that the world needs this. Sometimes it's a product problem, sometimes it's a design problem, sometimes it's a business problem, sometimes it's code. If I have a problem that I want to solve, I easily get into the flow state and forget about everything else.
  • sharing knowledge: I love teaching people things  and helping them get be better at what they do. This is why the idea of  Lifetramp really appealed to me when Adam came back from Japan and told  me we should try building this thing. It’s also why I get a lot of kick  out of working in senior or lead positions, as long as they entail more  mentoring than managing. This is also why I love speaking at conferences  and accepted the offer to be a guest lecturer at a UX course at my  former university, even though public speaking makes me want to curl up  and cry from anxiety most of the time.

What are your values? Did you ever stop to figure out why you do what  you do and maybe if doing something else would be closer to what you  hold dear? I can only recommend doing this, because we’re only here for a  short time, let’s get the most of it.