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What’s Your Why?

Years ago, a friend of mine was training to run a marathon to raise money for a cause that was close to her heart. She rose every morning at 4:30 and ran – rain or shine, snow or sleet.

Now my friend was not in the greatest shape and she was in her early 40s, and was no stranger to aches and pains. But she did this routine for months, increasing her mileage each week until the day of the marathon. Even after all of that training, she still struggled to finish on that hot July afternoon. But she did, in tears.

I asked her one day how she did what she did, all those early mornings, all those miles and she looked at me and said, “I always knew my why.”

She wasn’t running for herself. She wasn’t running to get in better shape. She was running to make a difference in other people’s lives. THAT was her WHY.

While I put less mileage on my shoes, there are some days when being a senior administrator feels as challenging as running a marathon in 80-degree weather. But I manage because I know my own WHY.

My why is the same today as a senior administrator as it was 20 years ago when I was a Resident Director and that is to contribute to enhancing the student experience so they feel they belong, are safe, and are able to fall and someone who cares is there to help them back up. My WHY is to create an environment where every student that walks through that door can thrive in their own way.

This WHY is with me at all times: when I’m recruiting, hiring, having difficult discussions, and making important decisions. On those days and those moments when it’s just too much, I’m always reminded of my why. When a student walks in my office and I instantly smile because they bring me joy or I receive an email from a former student thanking me… these are reminders of my why.

Do you know your own WHY? If not, you need to start thinking about it. What motivates you? What inspires you? What are you passionate about?

When you know your why, write it down so you have absolute clarity. And don’t keep your WHY to yourself, share it with others so they can know what you are all about.

When the going gets tough on those days you want to throw in the towel, take out that sheet of paper and read your WHY. Then put the paper away, take a deep breath and continue with a renewed sense of purpose and a smile on your face.

“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”

W. Clement Stone

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