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Damien Cosset
Damien Cosset

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Looking for your Why?


Sometimes, as we all do, I reflect on my job, my career and ultimately, my life. Almost every time, I fail to come up with a decent plan or the beginning of a solution to what I am feeling. Maybe writing it down will help me a bit.

This time, I began thinking about this because of a Marcus Aurelius' Meditations quote:

To what service is my soul committed? Constantly ask yourself this and thoroughly examine yourself by seeing how you relate to that part called the ruling principle. Whose soul do I have now? Do I have that of a child, a youth... a tyrant, a pet, or a wild animal?

So, to what service is your soul committed?.

Why I do what I do

Our purpose, our meaning, our cause... Don't we all struggle to answer these questions? I know I do. But it's not one of those Should I quit my job? moment. Because if I don't know the Why, or at least have a better idea, I will just have the same reflections in another job, and I will be doomed to repeat the same process over and over.

My job is challenging. I'm learning, I'm helping others. I try my best to be a good employee, a helpful colleague, a responsible developer. But I feel like something is missing. I feel like I am just going by day to day. What is the big picture behind all this?

When I answer the question in the quote above, well, I don't like the answer... I would probably be closer to a wild animal. There is little consistency in what I do. I procrastinate way too much, and I can't keep a new habit more than a few days. I chose this career path for a reason, I truly believe that developers can do a lot of good. We are constantly solving problems to make people lives easier and empower them.

I am solving problems at work. I am making my company's life better by creating tools to run their business. So, what is the problem? I am not solving world class problems, is that the issue? The feeling that my work is insignificant?

How do you define your work significance? Who's to say one's work is not important enough? Isn't actually solving one person's problem more important than dreaming about solving thousands of people's problems?

The issue I have might just be a matter of perspective, and humility. I guess the feeling I have is a distant relative of the imposter syndrome. But you could do so much more!!

I suppose a Why doesn't have to be grandiose. I know those things are personal, but maybe I have been misguided by the society we live in and those exceptional speeches about how everybody can change the world, if only they wanted to.

What if my duty is not to change the world? But just to help a few people fix a simple problem? That is probably enough, at least for now. And even if I come at the end of it all, and when I am asked: Career-wise, what do you have to show for yourself?, if I say that I helped one person solving a very simple problem with a very simple website, that would probably be enough.

In the end, the only person I have to be accountable to is myself. I'll have to live with myself until the end. My actions should reflect my values.

Maybe you just stumble into your Why... Not really looking for it, and then one day, something happens and you realise.

I'm going to publish this now, because why the fuck not. I'm not sure how readable it is, me randomly writing about what I feel. After writing this, I feel a bit better about all this. I already have problems available to solve at work, and here too. Dedicating myself to those 100% could probably change a few things...

Do you have a Why? How did you realise that was it?

Top comments (4)

hawicaesar profile image

You are not the only one, I had the same feeling this weekend. So many questions. Sometimes I look at other developers, and I see they are trying to be strong and hard, sorting of muffling these same questions we ask. But then you realise, "Hey, others feel the same way" and this feeling comes and goes. The human condition is funny. So get out talk, chat, experience different things with other people.

kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited

I like this post. I think all of us want to do something that really matters. I feel that pull anyway. But then I think about what that would look like professionally: Now I have on my CV this product that impacted the world. Now what? Am I happier? Does the accomplishment change me in such a way that I am always fulfilled? I really doubt it. (But I'd still like to verify. :) )

I've had some realizations over the years of things to keep my satisfaction / happiness level higher. It's funny to me that I do not even know the factors which make me unhappy personally, and I must discover them by observing and reflecting on my interactions with others. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one for non-sense -- I want to know practical things like "why is this person upset by my actions?" "why do I dread going to work?" "why am I depressed today?" "why did I do this obviously-bad thing (again)?" I have realized that part of me is like a machine, programmed by my experiences at the subconscious level. I am destined to continually reverse-engineer myself to discover my optimal operating conditions. But even then, I still have to choose not to sabotage individual moments with a bad attitude or taking for granted what I'm getting to experience right now.

That's just the personal level. I think relationships are key to another level of satisfaction, plus the primary vehicle for personal discovery. (This is being said by an introvert.) Well, healthy relationships anyway. :)

Anyway, sorry for the voluminous reply. This has been on my mind lately.

damcosset profile image
Damien Cosset

I think you are right. A big part of the problem is that I haven't spent enough time exposing myself to other people, cultures or communities. Thank you!