Your Why in the Little Things

by Dani Fake Webb on February 16, 2010

Last week I wrote a blog article about knowing your “why.” In that post, I talked about knowing why you are doing whatever it is you are doing in life – the big picture.

But what about the everyday things we do in life? You know, those tasks we do mindlessly because we *have* to…those chores that are a must in order to keep life running smoothly. What is our “why” in these things?

This week, life delivered a lesson in knowing your why in the little things.


42-15833248I have been *meaning* to clean out my closet for months. MONTHS. I have way too many clothes, most of which I don’t wear anymore. I set an intention for 2010 to “declutter” my life, and cleaning out my closet is the task at the top of that list. Yet, here it is, mid-February, and my closet is still full of clothes that I don’t wear.

Every weekend for the past seven weekends, I’d think, “I really should clean out my closet.” And each of those weekends has come and gone, leaving my closet in the exact same state.

Until this past weekend.

On Friday, I found out from a neighbor that some friends of hers were in need. A family – mother, father, two children – had lost their home to fire. Right here in our town, a sudden fire had burned their house to the ground. Just like that, everything – EVERYTHING – gone.

No one was hurt. Thank god, the family was not home at the time, and no one was hurt.

But everything is gone. Photos, keepsakes, love notes, journals, computers, and every stitch of clothing except what was on their backs.

My neighbor sent out a message: Did we have any extra clothes we could donate to this family?

Do I have any extra clothes?!  I have a closet full of extra clothes!

Suddenly, just like that, my closet cleaning procrastination vanished. I had a why.

Now, the task was not just menial, boring work. It had a purpose.
I was no longer cleaning my closet just for me. I was helping someone else.
It wasn’t something to simply check off a list. Someone, a real person with a face and a name, NEEDED my help.

It was enough to completely shift my perspective. As I went through my clothes, I thought of the woman who would benefit from them. I thought about her pain as she dealt with a great tragedy of life. It made the decisions of what to keep and what to give so much easier. The rationalization of “but I might wear that again” turned into “Yes, I might wear it again, but she needs it now.”

Never has cleaning my closet been such a joy.


cleaning-kitchenSo now I ask you, dear reader, what tasks have you been putting off? What daily activity feels like a drain? Is it cleaning out a closet? Is it the routine of getting the kids to bed? Walking the dog? Getting yourself to the gym? Filling out the expense report? Cleaning up the kitchen?

Whatever it is, I have a challenge for you this week. For each thing you do, stop before you do it. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Whatever answer you get, ask “why” again. For example:

You have to clean the kitchen. So you say to yourself,
“Self, why am I doing this?”
Because I have to.
Because the dishes need to be cleaned.
So the house will be clean.
“Why does that matter?”
It feels better to have a clean house.
I find myself happier and more peaceful when the house is clean.
“Why does that matter?”
I want to live a happier more peaceful life.

And there it is. Your why.

You no longer are cleaning the kitchen because you have to, but because you want a happy and peaceful life.

Isn’t that a better motivation?

Now, I am not so much of a Pollyanna to think that all of life’s tasks will become wonderful and easy because you explore the deeper why. But I am a firm believer that you choose how you experience life.

You can hate cleaning the kitchen and grumble about it.

Or you can intentionally consider WHY you are doing it, and let that be your focus as you work. You may still not enjoy it, but you are much more likely to have a better experience of it.

Try it. Think about your day, your week. Make a list of the tasks you are not looking forward to. Consider the “why” for each one. See if it makes a difference in your experience of life this week.

Until next time, may you love your life today.


PS: March is coming fast! My “Live Your Authentic L.I.F.E.” women’s retreat in Estes Park, CO (March 19-21) still has some spots! Check it out here.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily-Sarah February 16, 2010 at 9:02 pm

This makes perfect sense. Shifting perspective to uncover the “why” of things. I have attempted to do this with laundry. (Don’t laugh. Well, OK, laugh.) That “why” hasn’t sunk in yet … but the decluttering-with-a-purpose and other likewise rote tasks that take on a more helpful/meaningful/eternal hue when firmly attached to a shining why — I’m turning this into a lovely exercise. Maybe it will even work with tax prep work?! :-)

Denise Gray February 17, 2010 at 1:40 am

Wow! I felt like this post was written just for me, I think I was ‘meant’ to find this site, its just what I needed after weeks of procrastination for tidying my wardrobes – now I’m on the case!!

Thanks again – now I know ‘why’

Best wishes
Denise Gray :)

David Crandall February 17, 2010 at 1:56 am

Loved your article! I totally agree that having a ‘why’ makes a chore into something much less harsh.

I constantly have to focus on the ‘why’ as ‘because I love them so dearly and I want what’s best for them’ every time I have to change a dirty diaper. Ha!

Dani Fake Webb February 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm

I focus on the smell when I do laundry. I love that! ha! (Um, the smell of the CLEAN clothes, just to clarify!!)

Dani Fake Webb February 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm

AH, I love it Denise! I love when the “universe” conspires to have you find exactly what you need to find! Good luck with your tidying!!

Dani Fake Webb February 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Thank goodness that diaper changes can be QUICK! :)

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