Why, Oh Why!

I've been slowly reading a book by Simon Sinek titled, "Start with Why." Actually, I was going to buy "Find Your Why" by the same author but realized this book came first. It was in the business section of the bookstore and seems to align with more than just business logic but is perfect for leaders.

Why do we do anything in life? Why do some surpass personal potential and expectations but not all? And the age-old question, "Why are we here?" I love to understand the “why” much more than “what” and “how.” “Who” is also a favorite which may have to do with my extrovert personality but for right now, let's just wallow in and try to understand, Why.

It's the compass for our journeys and usually the guide to this point in time but I'm not really sure I understand my "why" fully. Do you?

Life experiences and lessons have shaped it but what's at its core? For every person, it is different and so many factors contribute to it; genes, family, upbringing, culture, environment, education, experience, friends, and more. How have your decisions affected or influenced your Why? When you look at Olympic Athletes, successful business people, or celebrities, the question certainly comes to mind. Why do they do what they do?

I'm not going to answer the question—sorry! It just seems like great brain food to chew on! Afterward, a diet of how and what is certainly appropriate but will take a little more time so this meal is all about chewing on the Why.  Your own personal why. Who, what, where, and why. It does seem like it should be at the core but when you think and reflect on it, it certainly makes all the others come into play.

There are so many quotes from Simon Sinek's book and an equal amount of examples so it's worth the read but reflection and some personal detection are also valuable. Some of us go on autopilot for so much of what we do and how we do it. But, WHY do we do it? Habit? Repetition? Culture? Ease?  Water finds the easiest path of least resistance down a hill; is it what most of us do?  It takes time to just think about why? Digest WHY!

This blog isn't about solving your why or my why for that matter; it's about uncovering and reflecting on it. Hint: it may take a little time but it is important. 

As leaders, we need to be able to communicate "the why" to our teams to have a consistent message. Think of a mosaic with all the pieces creating the design, each piece adds to the giant puzzle. Visualization is such a great tool but in order to see the big picture, you need to see what it's comprised of. Having an understanding of the pieces helps to understand the reasons why your business, your team or you do what you do. The structure, the core, and the foundation all make up what you have designed. The way the pieces are put together is "how" it is designed but “the pieces” are why we do it.

Are you consistent with your message in business and/or your personal life? Do the pieces of your big picture align at work and home? These tidbits/pieces collected over time, whether you are old or young contribute to why you do what you do. The collection of experiences combined with your natural gifts, accomplishments, and desires form the reason why you are doing what you do and how you do it.

Reflecting to see if your thoughts and actions align with your feelings is important on many levels. In order to share a message, inspire or motivate a team, or find personal meaning, understanding WHY you do what you do helps clarify how, what, and who are a part of the journey.

So take a break and think about it. Chew on it! Do you understand what is at the core of your reason for doing what you do? Why do you do it? Does your team understand the motivation and is it consistent with your employer’s or your company’s message? Food for thought!

Bon appétit!


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Mary Kay lives in Cortland, New York and is taking a sabbatical from technical recruiting to focus on her art and photography and hopes to launch a website soon but is staying active in the Central New York and Rhode Island markets.  She has a BA in Liberal Arts from Rhode Island and has worked in the technology industry over the last 20 years as a recruiter or salesperson. She recognizes the need for more women in leadership roles in STEM and business and is trying to figure out what to do about it!