The idea of “finding your purpose” is not a new one, but the fact that it’s popular discussion at a corporate level is in part due to one man, Simon Sinek. Sinek has authored several books, but the two most prominent are Start with Why and Find your Why. While book sales are one way of tracking the stickiness of an idea, so are video views, and his TedX talk on some aspects of the book is, at last count, approaching 40 million views.
The easiest question is also the most important: why is Sinek’s message resonating? Certainly our increasingly fragmented society has a role in it. As the gig economy picks up steam, and education and health care continue to get disrupted, the things that we’ve taken for granted as a society continue to be questioned. That causes a lot of people to examine their original assumptions. When those assumptions no longer seem valid, it’s as good a time as any to recalibrate (or find for the first time) one’s purpose.
The Golden Circle
At the heart of Sinek’s book is the concept of the Golden Circle, which is three concentric circles that has “what” in the outside circle, “how” in the intermediate circle, and “why” in the inside circle. Sinek points out that companies (not unlike people) often start with what. A company might say, “We make widgets” and a person might say, “I’m an engineer.” While that’s valid, that doesn’t engage us.
If, instead, you start with why, and people are engaged with it, they will follow you to whatever what you might have on offer. Sinek often uses Apple as his point of comparison and frames their “why” as “We like to challenge the status quo” followed up by a “how” of “we focus on style and design” which ends with a “what” of “we make computers and digital devices.” At this point, “Wanna buy one?” is an easy (and often successful) question Apple poses.
The same methodology can be applied to our lives and careers if we are feeling stagnant or uninspired. Look beyond what it is you do for a living and ask yourself why you are doing it. Instead of the what of “I’m a teacher” you might consider the why of “I love training our future leaders.”
These ideas aren’t just pet theories of Sinek’s. He did the research and found that the concepts of loyalty and trust are found in the limbic part of our brains, which do not have language functions, whereas the neocortex of our brain is very logical and does have language. When we start with why, we are engaging in something deep within each of us, something that can’t always be clearly articulated, but is powerful in what it can motivate us to do and produce. It also explains why some brands have such passionate advocates – they have connected with those people at a subconscious level, beyond language.
Businesses that start with why can acquire customers that think like them. If they believe in your mission, they will buy almost anything you want to sell them. People that start with why find this reframing to be a powerful way of examining whether their short-term actions align with their long-term values.
Do you know your why? Share it with us in the comments below and get 50% off a hand or foot repair at one of our clubs!