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Find Your Why


I have been talking about purpose a lot this week.  It’s always an underlying theme in the work that I do with clients.  We frequently reference a great model - Ikigai - which I’ve written about before.  I also did a short video on Ikigai this week on LinkedIn.

I often reference Simon Sinek’s work on “Start with Why” and I’m currently reading a great book that takes Simon’s concept and has a really thorough way of helping individuals to find their why.  It’s called “Find Your Why” (funnily enough) and is written by David Mead and Peter Docker.

So today I’m going to explain the process they use in the book so that you, too, can start thinking about your Why along with me.  I’m hoping it will be something I can incorporate into my coaching approach to help clients create a career they love.

Always start with why
Let’s start with a little recap of Simon Sinek’s concept (if you fancy a deeper dive, check out his TED Talk). His concept is all based round the Golden Circle that is three concentric circles with WHY in the centre and HOW and WHAT in the circles going outwards.

So often, when we talk about what we do, we talk about WHAT we do: “Hi, I’m Ali and I’m an executive career coach.”

If someone asks more, we will then probably tell them HOW we do it: “I deliver in-person and online coaching programmes to clients either one-to-one or in groups.”

But how often do we get to the WHY: “I truly believe that people’s lives and happiness can be greatly improved by crafting a career that makes them leap out of bed in the morning.”

Let’s turn that around and start with WHY.

“Hi.  I’m Ali and my passion is to improve people’s lives and happiness by helping them to create a career that gets them leaping out of bed in the morning.  I do this by delivering 121 or group coaching programmes that they can access online or in person.  I guess you could call me an executive career coach.”

Starting with WHY is so much more engaging, interesting and compelling.  And here's the reason.  The outer section of the Golden Circle, the WHAT, corresponds to the outer section of our brains – the neocortex.  This is responsible for our rational and analytical thought as well as language.

The middle two sections – HOW and WHY correspond to the middle section of our brain, the limbic system.  This is responsible for our behaviour and decision making as well as our feelings, like trust and loyalty.  However, it has no language.  It’s where our “gut feelings” come from.  It’s much more primal.

So that’s all very interesting but what it you don’t know your Why?  Discovering your Why can be very powerful.  For some people, it gives them a signpost to move on to different and more meaningful work.  For others, it can be the realisation that you are already living your Why and, upon realising that, can make it an even more powerful tool for your work.

Find Your Why
The book sets out a process through which you can discover your own Why.  I plan to do this myself over the next few weeks and will share the results.

Step One: Collect and share stories
Gather a number of stories about significant events or turning points in your life – things that made a real difference to you as a person.  You need to gather at least 10 (the more the better) and then narrow them down to about 5 or 6 of the most significant.  Make these stories as detailed as possible and try to recall the emotions attached to them.

Then share these stories with someone else to bring them to life.

Step Two: Identify Themes
Start to look for key themes and insights in these stories that you’ve probably never expressed before.  As you progress, one or two of these themes will shine brighter than the rest until you really feel “That’s me – that’s who I am!”

Step Three: Draft and Refine a Why Statement

Make this simple and clear, actionable, focused on the effect you have on others.  Use language which resonates with you.  Eventually, you will end up with just one sentence.  “To ……. so that…….”

The first blank represents the contribution you make to other people’s lives.  The second blank represents the impact of that contribution.

Here is an example from Simon Sinek himself: “To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.”.

Next steps
Finding your Why is not necessarily as easy as just reading this brief outline and getting on with it.  The writers of this book recommend working with a partner on this endeavour.  You could, of course, make a start with this outline or you could buy the book.

However, what is occurring to me as I write this email is this: I’d like to do this work and enable others to do it at the same time.  If you’d like to be involved in a mini group to work through this together, let me know and I’ll set something up.

Let’s discover our WHY together!

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