Big questions, happy people

By Scott Schimmel

“Why do you want to work here?”

That question, asked of me during my final round interview in September during my senior year in college by a panel of senior-level managers at a global accounting firm nearly did me in. 
Have you ever had a moment like that where your heart skipped a beat and all of a sudden you felt a jolt of adrenaline, layered in fear?

Let me rewind a bit and let you into my conscious on slow motion. Here’s what I was really thinking: “Why do I want to work here? What makes you think I want to work here? I have no clue why I want to work here? Honestly, I don’t! I would rather do anything than coming to this office every day of my life for the next three decades!”

But, I knew you’re not supposed to say that out loud- not in an interview at least. I can’t remember what I said exactly. I just know it was insincere, involved way too many corporate cliches and was generally unconvincing. 

The real story was I wasn’t prepared for that question because I knew there were so many other questions that I hadn’t answered yet.

At the YouSchool, we know that healthy, happy, vibrant and flourishing people have answered five key questions about life. Whether we’ve been listening to the thousands of high school and college students that have gone through our programs, or the hundreds of parents and educators we’ve had the privilege to learn from, we’ve been working hard to unpack the process that would help the whole education system go better to raise up healthy people. Here are the questions that each person who wants to grow up healthy needs to find clarity on:

What do you believe in?
Who are you becoming?
What’s your mission?
How will you contribute?
Who are your people?

Our beliefs are mostly formed by our upbringing. Parents, relatives, and other loved ones shared their beliefs and communicated their values to us, either explicitly or implicitly, and we caught them. Our friend group then did even more to shape them in our most formative years, and we blended what we were taught by our families with our peers. The major beliefs like what we believe about ourselves and our identity, the world, and its friendliness or lack thereof, and what we believe about God or spirit (or whatever you call it) are foundational to who we are and all that we do. Happy and healthy people have formed their own beliefs, in their own words. Their beliefs are defined and clear. They know what they believe and why they believe it. They might completely mirror the beliefs of their families and friends, or they might separate and form their own unique beliefs, but still, everyone needs to go through a process to find clarity for themselves. Clearly formed beliefs turn into clearly defined values and principles and provide a foundation to make meaning out of life.

I have a mashup in my imagination of several people that I know well that I want to emulate and become like. These people are courageous, truly kind, full of life, generous, dynamic, leaders, fathers and husbands. Knowing them, seeing them, and getting to learn from them helps me formulate a picture in my mind of the kind of person I want to become. Or, you might say, they help me to see who I really am deep down inside my core and give me the vision to become my true self. Everyone who seeks to be a happy, healthy and flourishing human being needs to have a vision of the kind of person they want to become. Knowing who you want to become turns into a passion for growing personally, for changing, transforming, and becoming a better version of yourself. 

People come alive on a mission, whether it’s for the common good or for mischief (remember T.P.’ing someone’s house in the middle of the night?). A good mission is formed around an intense desire to solve a problem that deeply irritates you. Your mission might be something noble and socially good, like protecting the environment or ending the sex trade. Or, it might be less about solving global problems and more of a service orientation- something that bothers you daily, like inefficient processes in your company or poor quality construction. The scope of your mission isn’t as important as the clarity you have around the problem and the energy it fuels in you to be engaged, come alive, and get your hands dirty. A clear mission results in a hunger to get up in the morning and solve problems.

People who live meaningful lives will always report making a significant contribution to solving a serious problem. They have talents and strengths that are put to use for the service of something bigger than themselves. They find tremendous value and meaning in honing their skills and investing their time to contribute to a solution. Knowing how you can contribute results in a deep desire to grow, getter better, and operate your gifts in an effective way.

Finally, one of the most important questions revolves around relationships. While the first four questions can help you organize your life, provide direction to your education and work, this last question will ground you in the reality that life is best lived in the company of loved ones. Some of your people will be given to you and chosen for you, like your family and your neighbors. But you have a lot of flexibility and freedom for the types of people you decide to belong to. Many people have taken the path of forming their own sense of familial bonds with peers (remember the tv show, Friends?). Some people choose to associate with a fixed community like a faith-based organization or interest group. What matters is that you know who your people are, you seek to know each other and build trust, you vulnerably share with each other and serve one another, and you grow together. When you know who you belong to, life becomes meaningful and you’re able to take greater risks because you have a foundation to depend on. 

If you haven’t come to clarity about these questions, it’s not too late. If you’re a parent or an educator (teacher, coach, youth worker, pastor) and you haven’t gone through a process to answer these questions for yourself, then there’s no better time than now to get started. Your ability to influence the next generation hinges completely on your own growth into clarity. 

There is an effective process to get to clarity about life’s most important questions. We’ve been working with thousands of students, athletes, military veterans, parents, and educators over the past five years to refine the process until we’re so confident that it works. Don’t hesitate to get started as soon as possible.