what you do doesn't matter

WHAT you do doesn’t matter (as much as the HOW and WHY)

Here’s an interesting thought to ponder:

WHAT you do, doesn't matter nearly as much as the HOW or WHYClick To Tweet

Let me explain with a story:

Why WHAT doesn't matter

A few years ago I was working at a job that I loved. I was learning lots of new things, growing as a person and doing the things I thought would make me happy. And those things did – for a while.

But over time my enthusiasm for the job diminished. As I outgrew my role and the company underwent some changes, I began to resent going to work.

Bear in mind, WHAT I was doing didn’t change. But HOW I was working, mainly the environment I was in and my feelings towards it, that’s what changed. I also lost touch with WHY I was doing the work.

As I continued in a downward spiral, I tried to reignite my passion for the job. I worked with my boss to rework my job description and create new goals to focus on. I thought that changing WHAT my job involved would solve the problem. It didn’t.

Times changed. I quit my job ended up in a new role doing something completely different. In fact, this new role had me doing things (WHAT) I thought I’d never enjoy. But because my HOW had changed and because I was in an environment and surrounded by people that motivated me, I enjoyed my work a lot more. Not only that, but being part of a small team gave me a greater sense of purpose (WHY).

It was at this point I realised, it doesn't matter WHAT you do. It’s the environment you're in and the people you surround yourself with (HOW you do the work) and more importantly the purpose behind your work (the WHY), that’s what matters!

This idea of WHAT, HOW and WHY is discussed in detail in Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why (to date, still one of the most influential books I've read). In the book, Sinek puts this idea into the context of a business:

“When you start with why, features and what you do doesn't matter as much.”

How to put this into action

Are you experiencing continued feelings of unhappiness, discontent and frustration towards your work (or even towards life for that matter)? If so, then changing WHAT you do may not help. I’d challenge you to think about HOW and WHY you do the things you do.

  • Experiment with changing your environment.
  • Try working with different people.
  • Does a change in routine help?
  • Reconnect with WHY your work is important and remind yourself of the purpose you are fulfilling each day.

For me, I actually went through Simon Sinek's Learn Your Why program which provided me with a lot more clarity on what motivates me and makes me “tick”.

When you put less emphasis on WHAT you do and focus more on the HOW and WHY, you’ll naturally start to feel a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

Best of all, as Sinek will testify, this is not just opinion:

“The newest area of the brain, is the neocortex, which corresponds with the WHAT level. The neocortex is responsible for rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections comprise the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for all of our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behaviour and all our decision-making, but it has no capacity for language.”

In other words, the way you FEEL comes from the limbic brain which is where the HOW and WHY come from. Put another way, when you have a sense of purpose and your WHY is clear, your limbic brain makes you feel satisfied and content.

I’d love to hear if you have your own WHAT, HOW and WHY story like me. Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you think.