The Importance of a Strong Why

In the post 10 Traps to Avoid when Goal Setting we cautioned that setting goals that mean nothing to you is setting yourself up for failure. Let’s explore that a little more. How do some people defy the status quo and manage to achieve the seemingly impossible when others cannot?

In a 2009 TED Talk, one of the most-watched TED talks of all time, author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek explains exactly how it can happen: Whether the odds are stacked in someone else’s favor or even with all other things being equal, the difference between success and failure can come down to having a firm grasp on your “why”.

When coaching, it can be easy to understand a coachees wants, but Sinek makes a compelling case that people benefit greatly for understanding the true purpose of achieving a particular goal. Being able to answer the “why” underlining an endeavor could be a key component or even the cornerstone of success.

Innovators and agents of change think and act in the same way, which Sinek argues is the opposite of everyone else. He describes it as the “Golden Circle,” but really it is three concentric circles. In the innermost circle is the “why”, outside of that is the “how” and the outermost circle is the “what”.

In business, “what” is the thing you make or deliver. “How” is how you go about making the product or delivering your service… your unique selling point. “Why” is your ultimate purpose, your driving factor. Sinek uses business examples in his talk, but the theory behind the value of purpose holds true for any pursuit.

Most people tend to think from the outside in. They describe they what, have some idea of how to get there, but struggle with the why. Innovators, on the other hand, tend to work from the inside out. They move through the process with purpose. They know “why” they are achieving their goals and and the why is what drives them.

Ultimately, people respond more powerfully to “why” than “what”. Sinek believes that is one of the reasons for the incredibly loyal following behind Apple’s products: Apple starts with their “why” and it enables the company to recruit top talent, people who are motivated not just by their paychecks but by ideas. It has also spawned a brand-loyal army, legions of followers who will line up for Apple’s latest products and news.

To help drive towards success start with finding the answer to “why”. Motivation is fickle and achieving goals can be a tumultuous ride. Even peak performers have periods in the process where emotion gets the best of them. Knowing your why allows you to ground yourself during these periods and refocus. The importance of a strong why is paramount to successfully achieving goals.

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