• Akila Venkatesh

#85: Know your Why

CC licensed image by Flickr user Art Poskanzer


Thanks to Simon Sinek’s awesome TED talk, I’ve recently realized that one of my perceived weaknesses could quite possibly be leveraged as one of my greatest strengths. Although my childhood memories are quite vague, I feel that I was that kid that pondered the larger ideas behind most things that I did. Going to India and seeing the poverty there first-hand, juxtaposed against the cultures of excess that existed back home in North America, I wondered why such illogical discrepancies in the world existed. It was from this that I connected to a goal and vision for social justice, equity and peace. It was hard for me to take many things at face value, without connecting it to the ethics of global justice. As I grew into a teenager and young adult, I would question the norms and traditions people would follow and wonder why people did the things they did…and why I did the things I did. From there, I dove into studying psychology, education and child development…all with an ongoing pursuit of understanding the deeper ‘Why’ and the bigger picture. Throughout it all I would write my reflections in journals, using stream of consciousness writing, flow charts, acronyms and various webs of knowledge to help find links to my ‘Why’. Understanding, Connection and Equity became part of my core values. When teaching in the classroom, I would approach my pedagogy with a ‘big ideas’ approach and when my day-to-day classroom responsibilities of marking, lesson-planning and solving micro-level disputes amongst students, would start to feel detached from meaning, I would go back to my lens of ‘Why’ to help reignite a sense of direction in me. My meandering journey through this blog, my social justice explorations, my family life and the minutia of my everyday life are continually brought back to my larger vision–the Why of what I’m doing–in order for me to feel centred. That vision is universal PEACE–Peace within ourselves, peace on earth and peace for the universe. Universal peace where every sentient being and our environment, can flourish. 

However, my tendency to continually understand my ‘Why’ has felt like a longstanding weakness and hindrance at times. Connecting everything to my bigger picture and seeking a deeper…and then deeper meaning has felt overwhelming at times or too complex, which then interferes with my  action and implementation. I have certainly been guilty of analysis paralysis on many occasions. I am thus working on being more action oriented and taking actionable steps even when I don’t feel 100% confident about the connection to my ‘Why’ (I feel that 70% confidence or more would be good enough for me!). I think that action can help inform and mould my understanding of Why and fuel a greater sense of connectedness to my bigger vision, and vice versa.  I see action as the evidence that continually informs my Why and I’m going into 2017 with this mindset.

Simon Sinek really helped reinforce and validate the value in understanding my reason and vision behind my actions. His simple yet powerful idea of ‘Starting with Why’ demonstrates that when we first connect with why we are doing what we are doing, before moving on to the how and what of our product, service, idea or path, we can then harness a more authentic, intrinsic, and inspired drive to succeed, from ourselves and others. He depicts the Why–>How–>What framework in what he calls the Golden Circle.

I think it’s a wonderful practice to go back and re-evaluate your Golden Circle on a regular basis. The New Year is a good time to do this. Here is my latest update on my Why-What-How for this blog:

WhyUniversal peace, where every sentient being and the environment, can flourish. How? By integrating my skills in Psychology, Education, the Arts, Critical thinking and EquityWhat?The 1000waystohelptheworld blog: A collection of authentic reflections and informative articles, written to Proliferate more Effective Altruism, Compassion and Empowerment. 

I will be updating this on my about page as my journey evolves. I’d love to hear your comments on your Golden Circle. Why do you do what you do, How are you doing it, and What is the outcome?

#StartwithWhy #reflection #SimonStinek #peace #bigpicture

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