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Finding the “Why” in Your Life

livelife Finding the “Why” in Your Life

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”  — Anne Lamott

Earlier this week, I had dinner with my friends Martha and Ro. They used to live just a short drive away from me in California, but they recently moved back to the East Coast.

It’s always great to catch up with them when I’m in New York, and this week was no exception. Like always, we had a deep, meaningful conversation about all the important stuff in life: family, love, loss, health, politics, changing careers, etc. We also talked about the world at large and the unknown path we feel like we’re walking along these days.

This dinner was my favorite kind because it was fun, funny, light, deep, and thought-provoking at the same time. (The only thing I didn’t like was that no one seems to want to order carbs anymore.)

Later that evening, I went back to my hotel and found myself really thinking about a question that Martha and Ro had asked me. It was one of those questions that’s good for all of us to ask ourselves at different points throughout our lives.

“Why do you do what you do?” they asked.


Their words made me stop and think. Why do I do the things that I do?

In my 20s, I would have replied that I was working hard because I wanted to succeed as a journalist, make money and rise to the top of my career. (My ego was partly driving that answer, if I’m being honest.) In my 30s, I would have said that I was working to maintain my journalism career while also learning how to parent my children at the same time. That was the focus of my 40s as well.

Then in my 50s, I became First Lady of California and I became motivated to serve my state. In fact, my 50s were all about outward service. Service to my state. Service to my country. Service to my family. Service to my parents, both who were ailing.

Most women I speak to — of all ages and backgrounds — say that they can relate to that feeling of being “in service” to someone or something else. That could mean their children, their elderly parents, their jobs, their local schools, various non-profits, etc. They’re so busy serving everyone else, in fact, that they forget to take care of themselves. Then when they do finally try to take care of themselves, they often find that they are dismissed by a health care industry that has a gender bias and is woefully uninformed about women’s health. (See my eye-opening Today Show stories about these topics below.)

This brings me back to the question of why “I do what I do” these days. Well, I do what I do now because it brings meaning to my life. Meaning is a big driver for me.

I keep reporting for NBC and doing advocacy work for my nonprofit The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement because I hope that my voice can help others. I also really want to move the needle forward on women’s health and Alzheimer’s.

I also create this Sunday Paper newsletter and my “Meaningful Conversations” podcast each week because I like to be in community with like-minded individuals who share my mission of moving humanity forward. I love lifting up voices that are thought-provoking, informative and inspiring and hearing what they have to say.

I love what I do because I love to keep evolving and growing. I also love my work because it reminds that there is a community of good people out there. It’s a community that’s much larger than the group of people who are out there making noise and trying to divide us.

That community of good people includes you, the readers of The Sunday Paper. This newsletter is my “offering” each week and it’s also my effort to build a community of people who want to make a difference in the world. If you are one of our readers or ambassadors, then I know you see yourself as an Architect of Change. I love that.

Ultimately, I do what I do because I can’t not do it. My work and my mission just mean too much to me. I’m really happy that I was able to answer Martha and Ro’s question with such clarity this week because I don’t know if I could have done that a few years ago.

The truth is, today it’s my heart and my desire that drive my choices. There is no structured path to so-called “success” like there was when I started my career. There is no big job or title that I’m working toward like I was when I was younger.

Over the years, I’ve experienced failure and I’ve felt shame and rejection. But these things don’t bother me the way they once did. I used to worry they would break me, but in a funny way, they have actually freed me. At this point in my life, I now feel like I get to make up my own rules. I get to carve my own path. How amazing is that?

I know that women my age can sometimes feel invisible in society, and it’s for good reason. Society does many things to make us feel this way. But I don’t subscribe to the belief that we’re invisible. I’m more visible to myself now than I have ever been in my entire life.

I have a lot that I’m doing now, and I have a lot that I still want to do. No one is going to slow me down or tell me I can’t. These days, I’m relying on faith and instinct to move me forward. I’m also guided by my belief that what I need is also what others need: connection, meaning and community.

There are so many reasons why we do what we do, and for each of us, the answer is deeply personal.

Do you know why you do what you do? Is the answer in your ego, or does it come from the destruction of your ego? Does it come from a place of righteousness, hubris and greed, or does it come from a true and pure place? Perhaps it comes from a place you may not even know exists until you stumble, fail and have to rise again.

I understand that many people are just doing what they can to juggle their families, careers, bills and healthcare, etc.. A lot of what we do each day is just about getting by. They’re just trying to get by and what they do is out of necessity. I get that. We all have full lives that require a juggling act. But don’t think that you don’t deserve to dig within and add something to your life that feels light and brings meaning.

This morning, pause and really think about how you would answer that question for yourself. If you find that you don’t know, then now might be a good time to re-evaluate what you are doing and try something brand new.

Yes, brand new. After all, there is only one you. This life of yours is yours alone. It doesn’t belong to anyone else, even though it can sometimes feel that way. This is your one wild and precious life, as my dear friend, the late Mary Oliver, once said. You deserve to ask yourself what YOU want and what motivates you. You deserve to do that thing that fills you up with light, joy and possibility.

Any time you find yourself forgetting this truth, I encourage you to ask yourself this question as well: “Who has to be happy doing what you do?”

You. You alone.

So this morning, start there. Start within. Search for your answer to that big life question that Martha and Ro posed to me, and then go live your truth.

Love,

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