Why do you do what you do? I recently heard this question and it stayed with me. It is such a loaded question and the answer really does boil down to two things – pride or praise.

Pride is that personal sense of gratification. Knowing you did something that felt good to you, regardless of whether anyone else saw you accomplish it. It’s a deep sense of self-respect and satisfaction. The focus is internal. Praise, on the other hand, has more of an external focus. Praise is seeking validation or approval. It’s wanting others to witness your accomplishment so they can admire you. Maybe even envy you. While we would like to say we do what we do for pride, it’s not always the truth.

Early in my career, and perhaps occasionally later on, I think my actions were a combination of pride and praise as I found my leadership identity. I had something to prove. I was younger than my peers. I was a female. I was a minority. While I’ve always had a deep sense of pride in my work and end product, I was looking for the awards, the accolades, the recognition.

I don’t know if it’s maturity, experience, time (or a combination of all three), but the last number of years, pride has taken over. I’m not out to “one up” someone else. I’m out to “one up” myself. There’s a desire to keep pushing forward that comes from deep within. We often get caught in the game – the game of outdoing or outshining our friends, peers, coworkers, neighbors. As an entrepreneur it’s even easier to fall into the trap of being focused on outperforming a competitor. However, this shouldn’t be your driving force. If you strive to be better than yesterday and keep leveling up and setting the bar higher and higher, you will outdo and outshine your competitors. More importantly, you’ll make yourself proud.

Think about the statements below. Which ones sound like you the majority of the time? Circumstances do come into play but think broader than these specific situations.


I can’t wait to wake-up and do that again.

Wow! I can’t believe I just did that. I never thought I would!

I am grateful that I get to do what I am doing.

I believe in the abundance mentality; there is enough to go around for everyone.

I love celebrating when my friends/colleagues/family accomplish something important to them.


I need external validation.

I like when other people envy me.

I care what other people think.

Oh, it was nothing. (Usually said after someone praises you.)

I wish someone would see everything that I am doing.

We all have moments where statements from both categories, pride and praise, sound like us. That’s part of our human journey. The goal should be to move more into pride and less in praise. If you found yourself answering the question, “Why do I do what I do?” more from the praise statements, come up with a 1-2 actionable commitments that you can make to move out of praise into pride. For example, before saying yes to a new project or responsibility, ask yourself why you are doing it – is it something you want to do and can be proud of or are you looking for external validation?

My true and life changing moment of pride came at Everest Base Camp in 2011. After weeks of trekking and without any creature comforts, standing at an altitude of nearly 18,000 feet, I was overcome with a feeling of accomplishment like nothing I have ever experienced before. That is the energy I tap into every day to keep improving, getting better and growing as a person. What will your Everest moment of pride be and how will you continue to harness the energy created?