Andrew and I are eating pizza. Okay, Andrew’s eating pizza and I’m sitting across from him dreaming of eating pizza… warm and basil-tinged, with just a smear of fresh tomato sauce, cheese caramelized onto the crisp crust… Oh. Yeah… But this post isn’t about the pizza (really!); it’s about the discussion happening between those savory, mouthwatering bites.
“What’s your why?” I asked. “Why do you wake up in the morning and continue, year over year, to love running Herbiary?”
Andrew answered, then flipped the same question to me.
We were trying to figure out our business’s raison d’etre, the root cause of years of dedication and hard work. At first we touched on the surface reasons: we believe in natural medicine as a first go-to, we want to introduce people to plants and plants to people, there’s so much fake natural out there so we want to curate and educate people on what’s what.
As soon as either of us answered, we asked why again: why do you want believe natural medicine is the first go-to? Why do you want to educate people?
We figured that when we ran out of whys, we’d be at the root of it.
After much back and forth we came to what was, for us, the final why: the root of our motivation and drive, the thing that got us up in the morning and kept us moving through all the mental I don’t want to-s. (‘Cause how many times have you thought I don’t feel like doing it… and gone and got a venti latte instead?)
The willpower to follow through on doing things we may not like comes, in part, from knowing the answer to this question: what’s your why?
And the ability to say I don’t feel like doing that—and then follow through by not doing it—would be, throughout most of human history, an unimaginable luxury.
When your ten-times great-grandmother didn’t feel like going out in the rain to bring in the harvest, she did it anyway.
Because if she didn’t her family would go hungry. Not I’m a little peckish and my blood sugar’s low but the hollow churning that, unchecked, has the power to steal breath and life.
For your ten-times great grandmother, that was a pretty good life motivation.
When I tell people I don’t eat potatoes or tomatoes (and therefore pizza), they feel sorry for me. I assure them I’ll happily forgo the red sauce, fries, and vomiting-migraines, thank you very much.
Again, pretty good motivation.
But most things which require effort in modern society don’t come with a sidekick of death, starvation, or pain. Our food comes shrink-wrapped and stacked on grocery shelves. It takes mental exercise to connect the work you do to the ever shifting flow of numbers in your bank account to the food on your table.
We’ve moved higher up Maslow’s pyramid and, for most of us, our work lacks the immediacy your ten-times great grandmother felt while carefully tending the field greens which would later fill her belly. Your vocation leads to food through an indirect series of events, some of which happen only in cyberspace. And abstractions tend to lack a motivating force.
So how do you rally yourself to lose ten pounds, lower your cholesterol, or save for retirement?
You find a concrete, physical, real world “why.”
When I was a teenager, I rode horses. I had Olympic-sized ambitions despite being over-weight and not at all athletic. And yet, there was something about the way my breath and my horse’s breath synced which made me become something greater than myself, and that greater self dreamed of gold medals.
So I dieted. I did sit-ups and push-ups every night before bed. It never became fun. I never got an endorphin high or enjoyed the rumblings of my empty tummy.
But I was so deeply connected to my “why” that I found the inner strength, discipline, and motivation to do the things I really didn’t feel like doing. A latte would have been way easier, but having a why made me push beyond easy to find purpose.Find that thing which, for you, is bigger than yourself. Click To Tweet
Start asking: what’s your why?
Shift your focus from what you lack, from what you feel like you’re denying yourself, to the verdant life you’re in the process of creating.
We all stumble, we fall, we say fuck it and go get a latte. When it’s really bad we supersize it and add vanilla syrup.
And that’s okay. But while you’re sitting there sipping, maybe feeling sorry for yourself or succumbing to the beginnings of martyrdom, take a deep breath and refocus: what’s your why?
Zoom out and remember the big picture. Then sing this future into being. Imagine what you’re striving for is already real.
Your ten-times great grandmother imagined her pantry full of preserves and pickles, dried meats and milled grain, enough to carry the whole family through winter’s cold.
Andrew and I dream of getting enough people to love on Mamma Earth that we can avoid the extinction of the human race.
What will you dream? What’s your why?