Episode #50: Why does WHY Matter so Much!?
EPISODE 50!! In this episode I go deeper into the 1st step of the 6 steps for stress recovery and burnout prevention I have been using with clients and in my own life. Without our Why as an anchor, guidepost, measuring stick and North Star, we become a hamster on a hamster wheel . . . charging forward at full speed but getting nowhere . . .until we exhaust ourselves and collapse. But when we do the work to ground ourselves and stay connected to our Why, all of the other decisions become easier, we can see our progress along the way and we are able to maintan resilience in the face of extraordinary challenges.
Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
This episode is being recorded in early September 2020. Last week I announced the opportunity for my followers and listeners to become Founding Members of my first online program experience [the 6 steps to stress recovery and burnout prevention] which is targeted for launch by the end of this month.
As of the release of this episode, it is not too late to join as a Founding Member! If you would like to receive more information about the Founding Member offer, shoot an email to [email protected] with “Founding Member Offer” in the subject line! This offer will “close” on September 15 so don’t wait!
I am going to spend the next several episodes also exploring each of the 6 steps to stress recovery and burnout prevention in more depth.
The FIRST step of the 6 steps is: Embark on the exploration needed to ground yourself in your why.
But why does your WHY matter?
I started this podcast . . .the very first episode . . . by articulating my Why for The Booth Andrews Company. And Simon Sinek is well known for his TED Talk and also his book titled Starting with Why.
I first latched onto this concept from an organizational strategy perspective more than a decade ago. In an organizational context, I used to tell people (and still do) that strategy helps you understand who you are, where you are going, if you are being successful and it also helps you decide how to allocate precious resources (because every organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit is challenged to maximize impact, outputs or profits for as few resources as possible).
I used defining our Why as the North Star as I led 3 operationally and culturally distinct organizations through merger. We used “Why” to design our new culture, vision, goals and strategic objectives. We used “Why” to decide what we would do. And what we would no longer do. We used “Why” to allocate resources and build our budgets. We used our Why to make partnership decisions. Every element of the organization was infused with our Why and we were continually peeling back and working through silos or disconnects in an effort to become more true to who we said we were.
I saw my job as CEO to align our resources (human and otherwise) in support of our mission; and the more effectively we did that, the greater impact we would have.
I even used to say that if we did not have the resources to accomplish those goals and objectives, then we needed to adjust the goals in order to rebalance the scale.
Have you ever worked in a place or observed work in a place where the resources don’t match the stated objectives?? Where the expectation is that everyone will give their ALL and more no matter what that sacrifice costs them? Or where the goal is a moving target? Or where the resources shrink but the goal doesn’t? Or maybe the goal doesn’t align with why you went to work there in the first place (and frankly with who the organization espouses itself to be)?
Whether you have or haven’t directly worked in such an environment it probably doesn’t take much for you to imagine that working within such a construct might be demoralizing and unsustainable. At some point, our ability to reach beyond our own capacity for an unattainable goal or a goal that is out of alignment all the while feeling under-resourced, under-valued or unsupported will push us to some sort of professional breaking point.
Without our Why as an anchor, and guidepost, and measuring stick and North Star, it is incredibly easy to lose our way, to forget what we are doing it all for anyway, to set ourselves up for failure by perpetuating a misalignment between goals and resources, or to allow a devolving culture to hijack the bus . . . we become a hamster on a hamster wheel . . . charging forward at full speed but getting nowhere . . .until we exhaust ourselves and collapse.
I understood these concepts as applied to an organization well before I fully understand them applied to my own life.
I did have a clearly articulated Why back then. But it was externally facing. My defined purpose was to help individuals, organizations and communities reach their full potential. And I was really good at realizing this purpose in so many ways.
But there was another Why that was invisible to me then. And it was the Why that was propelling me forward, beyond capacity, on a regular basis. I explore this experience more in the blog post titled Never Enough which I have linked in this transcript.
This next section of today’s podcast is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote in February 2020:
I used to even say to my team that pretty much any mistake, as long as it did not reflect a lack of integrity, was most likely recoverable. The only “terminal” mistake was a lack of integrity. Oh, the irony in those words!!
This passage from A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker Palmer hit me right between the eyes not too long ago:
“Depressions come from a variety of causes, of course. Some result from genetic bad luck or imbalanced brain chemistry and must be treated with drugs. But others result from burying true self so deep that life becomes one long, dark night of the soul.”
[I will add here, that is not in the blog post, that one of the reasons we end up burying our true selves so deep is actually as the result of trauma.]
Palmer goes on to make the case for “integrity” as choosing to live divided no more.
[Which I will add now is defined for me is: choosing to live as deeply connected to and guided by my own soul as I can muster. Back to the original text.]
We like to talk in popular culture about how rich and successful people “shouldn’t” be unhappy. Insisting that others don’t have anything to complain about, because after all, aren’t their lives so much better than ours? Are they? Really?
I often work with people who have been and continue to be very successful by the world’s standards. Houses, cars, businesses, titles, promotions, children, accolades and even cash outs. And yet, I can tell you that when they come to me it is because they have realized that they cannot continue to live the way they are living anymore.
Their soul is dying. Because they are marching to the beat of the drum they grew up with: the messages about do’s and don’ts, and cans and can’ts, and shoulds and shouldn’ts. They shut down the parts of them that were not safe or valued or “okay” in the eyes of their caregivers and the world and channeled all of their energy and worth into the parts that were rewarded and applauded (or at least gave them the best chance of survival).
But now, their soul is dying and their bodies can no longer withstand the assault. Every day has become a dark night of the soul, no matter what they have accumulated or accomplished.
When we have ignored the messages of our true selves long enough, we may forget that parts of us even exist. We don’t remember who we were before someone else told us who we could or should be. We cannot access the parts of us that were deemed unsafe or unsavory. It isn’t that we are knowingly living a lie, it is that we are so deeply fragmented we don’t even realize what is happening. Until we start to get sick.
The parts of myself that I showed to the world were, in fact, very much aligned with who I am. I know this to be true now even though I wasn’t sure in the dark, because I am still that person on the other side . . . on the other side of my near-death experience, my dark night of the soul.
But there were other parts of me that I never showed the world. Parts of me that screamed to be heard and seen and validated. There were times that I became aware of my desperation, but I believed there wasn’t anything that could be done about, so I just shoved it back down and kept going. Other parts of me were locked so deeply into my psyche and my body that it has taken years to unearth them and reintegrate them into the fabric of my being.
I am still unearthing and integrating. Perhaps I always will be, as long as my soul is on this earth.
It turns out that integrity is more multi-faceted than I once imagined. If I were to define integrity now, I would include a commitment to becoming an archeologist of self and soul. To ensure that when we “act in alignment with our values” we haven’t left ourselves (or parts of ourselves) alone and abandoned somewhere along the way.
I know for some of us, the idea of committing to the soul and the self might seem to sit on the edges (or fly in the actual face) of what we may have been taught in our religious traditions or belief systems. This may merit a deeper exploration at a another time, but I want to say this for now:
I believe that our soul is the part of us that is not just of this world. And I believe that when we dive more deeply into our true essence, we will find a reflection of and connection to the Divine there.
This part of us, unadulterated by the world’s demands and traumas, is pure. Pure of heart. Pure of mind. And when we breathe and live into alignment with that part of our being, we will also show up in the world in alignment with the Divine’s intent and purpose for us.
So for me, the exploration of self and the soul has a greater purpose and plan and intent.
Yes, I want to stay well. For my children. For myself. [For the generations that came before me. And the generations that will come after me.]
But now that I believe our healing journey leads us back to our true selves, and to the Divine’s purpose for us on this earth, I feel even more hopeful about this path. Because we are all interdependent and interconnected. Every single living being on this planet. And while I may not be able to throw all of the starfish back into the water, I know I can help some. For this gift, I am grateful. And I am grateful for you too.
Is your soul calling to you? Is your true self crying out to be seen? To be heard? To be validated and valued? You are not alone.
We often wait until we receive a terminal diagnosis, or until someone we love or admire dies suddenly, to remember that life is not guaranteed. And in the face of death, all bets are off. We suddenly feel as if we have permission to do that thing we always wanted to do. Or to be that person we always wanted to be. To say no to those things that really don’t matter to us. And to say yes to ourselves and to our loved ones.
But what if I challenged you by saying that you are not living a life of integrity if there are parts of you screaming out right now? Even if there are parts of you that you have promised to “entertain” at some future date uncertain in your life when you can give yourself permission?
What if reading [or hearing] this right now makes a lump rise in your throat or makes your chest suddenly feel heavy.
What if I challenged you by saying that while the way you are living your life right now may not be an immediate death sentence, I can tell you that there will come a time when your body can no longer tolerate the slow death of your soul?
The Why that I wrote in 2009 and the Why that I understand for myself now is not the same, though they are congruent. I would argue that my current definition is an articulation in even deeper integrity with my truth and my experience because I have spent the last 5 years peeling back the layers and revealing parts of myself that I had not given voice to in years, perhaps decades.
Your WHY as revealed by working through the 6 Steps doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be an intentional articulation (as well as you understand it today) of the most unadulterated version of yourself that you can find in this moment and the purpose you see for yourself in the world.
When you give your soul permission to speak, and you revisit it regularly, it will find its voice. This articulation will be the anchor, the guide, measuring stick, and the North Star for the rest of our journey through the other 5 steps.
I saw a meme on Instagram last night from @holisticallygrace that resonated with me . . . in essence it said . . . we think self-care means ME FIRST when it actually means ME TOO.
The same light and care we would shine on others, we deserve to shine on us too. When we shine that light on ourselves, we increase our capacity to realize our purpose (and to shine that light back on the world).
And just one more reminder that as of the release of this episode, it is not too late to join as a Founding Member! If you would like to receive more information about the Founding Member offer, shoot an email to [email protected] with “Founding Member Offer” in the subject line! This offer will “close” on September 15 so don’t wait!
Thank you for listening today. And, if you haven’t already, please hit subscribe and remember to rate this podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. When you subscribe and rate, you make it easier for other people to find this content. And if you write a review of the podcast, I will share it on air in a future episode.
I look forward to being back with you next time!