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.