Finding Your Why

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Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, explores what it takes to be an inspired leader capable of making great change in the world.  Sinek focuses most on the importance of why we do the things that we do and how our why directly impacts the power of our message.  Ted Talks released a short video synopsis of Sinek’s theory called How Great Leaders Inspire Action and I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch this amazing presentation.  Michael Hyatt also discusses the importance of “why” in his podcast, The Importance of the Leader’s Heart.

This is, by no means, a new concept.  We all know that passion is important.  If we don’t know why we are doing something, there is a lack of focus and a lack of personal investment.  It makes sense that if you, as the leader, are not invested, those following you will lack investment to an even greater degree.  In this post, I want to explore the idea of leading from your why and what a good “why” looks like, and the steps you can take to identify your own “why.”

As I have said before, my initial “why” for becoming an RA was a little selfish – I wanted that single room and stipend!  I did my job and earned my compensation, but I was never what I would call at “great” RA – or a great leader, for that matter.  In fact, as a supervisor, I probably would have been having some very intentional conversations with myself about being more engaged in the position.  It wasn’t until much later that I discovered my true “why” – to enhance the lives of others and do everything within my power to develop students.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Some peoples’ “whys” are financial.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as it still motivates you to do your job effectively.  If monetary benefits are your only motivator, however, it is unlikely that you will be as great a leader as someone motivated by a deeper “why.”

What “Whys” Look Like:

  • Passion-Based – Passion drives motivation.  If you are not passionate about what you are doing, your product suffers.
  • Energizing and Refreshing – When you finish a task directly related to your “why,” you should feel charged and ready to take on the world!
  • Captivating – Have you ever looked up from a task and realized it is much later than you thought?  Loss of time often occurs when you are engaged in working within your “why.”
  • Simple and Concise – “Whys” do not need to be extravagant. Simple is good.
  • In Writing – Michael Hyatt often says that putting something in writing is the only way to make it real.  I whole-heartedly agree.  Good “whys” should be written down and reviewed often.

Now that you know what a “why” looks like, it’s time to find yours!  If you have already identified your “why,” that’s great!  Make sure you write it down and keep it some place where you can easily review it every day.  If you are still searching for you “why,” consider the following questions carefully.

Questions to Consider in Finding Your “Why”

  • What do you enjoy most about your position?
  • How do you want others to see you on campus?
  • What RA tasks make you feel like time has flown by?
  • When do you feel that you have been your most productive?
  • What issues would you consider writing writing a letter to the President of your university about?
  • Who/What inspires you to get up in the morning?

The most exciting thing about identifying your “why” is that all of the other pieces then fall into place! Many leaders start with the “what,” move to the “how,” and rarely ever discuss the “why.” Great leaders, on the other hand, know that leading from “why” brings the “how” and the “what” to fruition.

Closing Thoughts

What motivated you to become an RA?  What is your WHY for becoming a student leader on campus?  How did you discover your “why” and how has knowing it made your time as an RA more productive?

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