Maybe you grew up in an environment where it wasn’t polite to ask “Why?” I’ll bet you heard the infamous answer from a parent, a teacher or a coach, “Because I said so!” Take a deep breath, overcome your bad memories and dust off the question. There is a time to ask the big question. There is a time when “Why?” is the most important question to ask. That time is now. Rather than ask your parents, coaches or teachers, look in the mirror today and ask yourself, “Why?”
Once I heard someone empower a young questioner with a stern warning, “You can ask why but you better be prepared for the answer.” It’s a valid concern. Before you ask deep questions, you need to understand that you will be required to invest in deep reflection. The best leadership never occurs in shallow water. You get to choose how deep you want to go. Three principles will guide the process.
“Why?” begins on the inside.
In his compelling TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, Dan Pink draws a critical distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Pink’s comments provide some clues that are necessary in order to understand where we need to go to wrestle with the deeper questions and answers. Why lives on the inside and finding the answers will require some serious exploration. Whether you are asking the question at a personal level or an organizational level, it’s a question that begins on the inside.
Too many leaders attempt to develop a personal vision from the outside. They tend to be shaped from the outside in rather than transformed from the inside out. It doesn’t work. Vision emerges as an expression of your story. It is the story that moves from within and finds expression through your life. That is how you reveal your why to others.
“Why?” is personal.
It must be. If it moves from the inside out, it must be personal. Have you ever noticed that the most memorable eulogies contain personal stories? The best stories are gritty, authentic and require no embellishment or exaggeration. Real stories evoke laughter and tears because family and friends are drawn into the drama. Stories connect to the heart. They inspire.
After your death, your legacy will be shared in story form. The stories chronicle why you lived the way you lived. But, your story is being written every day. The more clearly you understand your why, the greater will be your sense of purpose and fulfillment as you write it. It’s the way you live out Stephen Covey’s Habit 2, “Begin with the end in mind.”
Intrinsic motivation possesses a glorious quality. It lives and breathes within. Motivation that draws deeply from you personal why is refined into purposeful action. It is your heartbeat and you will find that it will unleash your greatest potential to motivate for self-leadership. Your capacity to inspire your family, friends and colleagues is intertwined with discipline and intentionality.
Living on purpose is a dynamic process with a great deal of room for improvement. Each day functions as a crucible to refine your purpose through a lifelong cycle of experiences and reflection.
Simon Sinek brought the importance of “Why?” to the forefront. His TED Talk and book made the phrase “Start with why” immensely popular. Sinek offers a compelling case. “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Go and inspire.
InitiativeOne helps leaders ask and answer “What’s your Why?”