Know your why in July and be inspired all year long! There are many catch phrases out there about finding out what drives or inspires you, one that I have most recently heard and relate to is “Know Your Why.” We start our lives asking lots of whys, much to the chagrin of our parents, as we try to figure out how the world works and our place in it. Somewhere along the way you find your personal “why,” the thing that most motivates you. What you do may be temporal, and how you get there may change, but the driving, almost intangible “why” is something that a life’s work can be built upon.
Michael Jr., a comedian, is known for saying, “When you know your ‘why,’ then your ‘what’ has more impact, because you’re working towards your purpose.” And Stephen Warley stated: “Your “Why” is a statement of purpose that describes why you do the work you do and why you live the lifestyle you do It is your calling. It is your conviction. It is your mission statement.” A study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health noted that people with purpose driven lives had lower mortality during the study period from cardiovascular disease, blood conditions and digestive conditions. While not a ticket to immortality, a purpose driven life was noted as making it more likely for people to adopt healthy behaviors.

For all my adult life, conserving biodiversity has been my “why.” It is the motivator for actions I take in my personal and professional life. It leads me to make changes in my everyday activities like grocery shopping and larger issues like where I choose to work, spend my vacations, and so many other things. My first career was as a zookeeper, providing hands on care to a variety of endangered and imperiled species. I was lucky enough to be able to work on projects that reintroduced some species back to the wild. As a keeper, along with others nationwide, we raised funds for a nature preserve in Kenya works steadfastly to save rhinos and all the other animals that call the rangelands home.

Being able to support a program that does so many wonderful things for the community as well as saving biodiversity became the “who” and “what” of my why. It led me to develop a community of friends with similar interests and hopes, develop new skills, and support real-world super-heroes protecting rhinos from poachers. In May, I was able to travel to Kenya and visit this preserve that, for over 20 years, has been a real part of my life though I had never previously set foot on its soil. It was a true dream come true to go there and see so many amazing animals, but most importantly the rhinos and the people working so hard to protect them all. It felt like a wonderful culmination of celebrating my previous career, the preserve that had been such a part of that time and now, being a part of SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve.

My why has not changed, but my where has. I will always have ties to the preserve in Kenya, but now I now have over 110 acres with amazing biodiversity to call my place of work. There is so much to learn, to restore, to teach, to conserve, and to enjoy here. SHADOW is an inspiring place with its trails through the bog, wetland, riparian, and wooded habitats. Come for a Community Class, a Forest Bathing Experience, a Wild Walk, or reserve trail time to explore for yourself and see if you can find your “why” along the way.

Want to learn more?

Will a purpose-driven life help you live longer?

Find Your Why to Get Unstuck

Do You Know Your “Why?” 4 Questions To Find Your Purpose

Why ‘finding your purpose’ matters

“Find Your Why” by Simon Sinek

Know your why

By SHADOW Executive Director, Stephanie Miller