Last week I discussed what our WHY means (our purpose) and why it is important to bring it to light. In the book FIND YOUR WHY Simon Sinek describes multiple steps that allow us to formulate our WHY statement. In this text I will discuss these steps and give you ways for you to formulate your own WHY statement. Mind you that our purpose, our WHY, is not the person we want to be. It is who we truly are.
To give an example, let´s look at an imaginary professional soccer player. The professional soccer player might have had a rough childhood. His escape was soccer, which he played continuously every day for ten years. The soccer player worked hard, has had many life experiences that taught him beautiful and painful lessons, and he has achieved to be able to play for his all-time favourite team.
Playing for his favourite team at the highest level is his WHAT. Doing this in the form of the sport soccer, is his HOW. His WHY might be to inspire others to believe in themselves, so that no one has to let their circumstances determine their future. At a certain age this soccer player will not be able to practice the sport at the highest level. Does this mean that his WHY is over? He can still try to inspire others to believe in themselves, so that their circumstances do not determine their future. Playing soccer was just a way to do so.
‘A WHY is just a belief, HOW’s are the actions we take to realize that believe, and WHAT’s are the results of those actions’
– Simon Sinek
It is not easy to describe our personal WHY. Luckily there are some guiding steps which allow us to formulate it. The first step is to think back of life experiences. Our WHY is fully formed by our late teens, so try to think back about impactful negative and positive personal experiences and people that were influential in your life. Then write them down in chronological order.
The more specific the memory, the better. After doing this, you can give them a certain grade based on the impact the experience and/or person had on you. This being negative or positive impact. The actual grade or number you give to each experience, does not matter. This only provides a measure for yourself to communicate to yourself.
If you ,for example, have gone to Italy with your family a couple of times, can you remember something memorable from one of those times? Many memories tend to be vague or partly forgotten. Why is it that you remember certain memories over others?
It is important to emphasize the quality of the memory by describing it in as much detail as possible. The emotions felt are also of importance. In the book FIND YOUR WHY the authors state that we should at least describe 10 memories, and once they are written down, we should choose 5 or 6 of them.
‘You may not think you have a good memory, but you remember what’s important to you’
– Rick Warren
You want to write down these memories in as much detail as possible, because this allows you to identify certain themes that reappear. These themes help you determine your ‘why’ and who you are. They provide understanding of how you have reacted in different situations, and what and who has impacted and influenced you throughout life. This helps you define what you find meaningful and why you find it meaningful.
If the person remembers the quality of the Italian food and the nice weather, this is not specific enough. Let’s say that one of those trips to Italy you went to a lake with your family. At this lake you went on a boat and at one point in time the boat stopped working. Your mother and brother panicked, your dad started to look for what was wrong, and you remained calm. You looked for a solution and figured it out and the boat started working in no time.
This is a detailed memory and you can even write down the emotions you have felt. You can also write down how others reacted, how you reacted, and how they reacted towards you. If you are able to write down a couple of these memories, you will be able to find themes. With these themes you can go to the next step which is to write down your personal mission statement. In the book FIND YOUR WHY the authors give guidelines to help you write it down. These are:
- simple and clear
- focused on the effect you’ll have on others
- expressed in affirmative language that resonates with you
They also give a format you can use, but this is up to you. The format is:
TO______________ SO THAT __________________________
By describing your WHY in one sentence, you can easily remind yourself of it and act on it. If we once again look at the example of the soccer player, we can see how his WHY or mission statement is formulated. It states: ‘TO inspire others to believe in themselves, SO THAT their circumstances do not have to determine their future’. The first part (TO___) describes what you will contribute to others, and the second part (SO THAT____) describes the impact of your contribution.
Formulating your WHY takes time, and you might adjust it a couple of times which is fine. To describe your most authentic self is difficult to put into words. It goes beyond our rationale and we need to dive into our intuition. It is helpful if you can go through this process with someone you trust. Someone who can ask questions to highlight the themes in your experiences and help you connect the dots. It is better for this person not to be included in the experiences, because this makes it difficult for him/her to distance themselves from the story and not give their own personal opinion.
This process might bring up emotions that make you upset. It can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is important to understand that the experiences, also the negative ones, have formed you in a way and provide clarity of what it is that you want to accomplish in life. The lessons you have learned might be very beneficial to others. If we would take responsibility for our gifts, potential, and knowledge, we could help each other out.
‘Be the person you needed when you were younger’
– Ayesha Siddiqi
Next week I will open up a bit more and describe my own personal experience in formulating my WHY.
If you have experienced this text to be helpful and insightful, please share it with others. Let us spread love and awareness together. Let me know what you think of this post in the comments below or send me an e-mail. I encourage you to share your experience or thoughts!
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why. Penguin: England, London.
Sinek, S., Mead, D., & Docker, P. (2017). Find your why. Penguin: New York, New York.