In the movie ‘Collateral Beauty’, Howard (Will Smith) asks the question of his team – ‘what is your WHY?’ He refers to the reason that each of us as an individual gets up in the morning; the reason we do the things we do; the reason we make the choices we make; and ultimately, the reason which drives our outcomes. Howard links the ‘Why’ to one of three things – Love, Time, or Death. He asserts that we are all seeking time; seeking connection with others; and ultimately, we are afraid of death.
In business, as in all of life, our personal motivation, our drive, our reason ’why’ is what ultimately determines our outcome.
Now I know that when confronted with this question a lot of us, possibly the majority of us if we are honest with ourselves, really have no idea as to our ‘why’. Lets explore why we might have no idea, and then find a simple step that each of us can take to determine what ‘why’ might look like for us.
In an age where technology and science have catapulted us into living longer, surviving disease, expanding our means of communication, and shrinking the world beyond our wildest dreams, that same science and technology has ‘warped’ or altered time.
I remember a time where there were no computers to connect me to business, family, or friends; where we were only able to communicate by meeting up in person or writing a letter – waiting indeterminably for the response, and developing patience in the process.
I remember a time where you could not hide behind a screen and create a ‘connection safety net’ while building a relationship. There was nothing to hide behind; you had to choose to meet and connect, choose the speed at which you did that, and in the process learn about risk and develop resilience in taking risk.
I don’t remember a time before planes, trains and automobiles – but I do remember a time when you sought work which you could reasonably get to, either walking, riding your bike, or driving your car, thereby becoming an active and contributing member of your community.
Personally, I now predominantly travel to work on a plane; there are no boundaries to where I go. The world has shrunk in my ability to access it, but also expanded my options. When I don’t travel to work, I work from my computer, using a myriad of technologies to connect with my community, which has now exponentially expanded, and with that expansion broadened my reach, but simultaneously contracted my intimate connections.
I no longer work 9am-5pm, 5 days a week. My world has brought me the flexibility of working at all hours, on all days, in all places around the world; of being able to make money while on the beach, or taking in the history of Paris, or shopping in New York. This has however, come at the price of being ‘available’ to all people, in all places, at all times.
So you can see that this fantastic era we live in has brought so much, but at a cost.
I believe that that cost has caused so many of us to ‘speed up to keep up’ – like those mice on a Ferris wheel – without stopping to ask ourselves ‘why’ are we on the wheel (translate into path)? and how does that contribute to getting us where we want to be?
But it’s even bigger than that. If we are going to jump off that Ferris wheel, we have to know ‘why’. This is not as simple as having enough money to pay the bills, getting a new car, funding the dream holiday, putting our kids through school. The fundamentals are far bigger, deeper, and broader.
You see, if our reason ’why’ is limited to the things we want, as soon as we achieve those desires the limits will get pushed, and we will want different things, bigger things, better things; we will be driven to increase our pace on that Ferris wheel, and ultimately the cycle will keep repeating itself. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t have more fabulous things and experiences, but I am saying that like a kid in a candy store, the more we get, the more we want.
So in order to create peace of mind, stop the gnawing of ‘not enough’, and be both truly happy and successful, we have to develop and understand our ‘why’ or our ‘purpose’; and that takes developing ourselves. Its about ‘ME’!
Back in an era where we lived off the land, the farmer would till his crops and sell them at market. He needed to do so to feed his family, but also to have the ability to pay or barter for things he couldn’t produce himself. The farmer’s wife was tasked with the role of maintaining the home, feeding the family, caring for the children, and teaching the children how to ultimately be able to do these things for themselves. Connection was community based; we couldn’t travel far. Time was governed by the cycles of the sun and moon – lets face it, if it was dark there was no option to keep working! Roles were clearly defined and adopted, and we didn’t get pulled in every direction to compete.
So, your thinking to yourself, hmmm, I get it, but I’m part of this amazing 21st century, and short of isolating myself in a remote community at the ‘Back of Bourke’ (if you’re from Australia you will understand what Bourke looks like…remote), home schooling my kids, avoiding social contact so I don’t contract any infectious diseases, and mixing up my own herbs to heal the cuts and minor traumas – what am I to do? (Incidentally, I don’t advocate the beyond Bourke approach, given that in any event, at some point in time our kids need to develop the resilience that comes with living in the real world in order to be a part of it in the future. Avoidance of technology does not work, and ultimately, even if we do this, there’s a totally hypocritical component, in that if we or one of our off spring get really sick, the first place we will go to is a hospital using cutting edge technology!)
So what I’m going to propose to each of you wanting to get to your ‘why’ or ‘purpose’, is that it does not start with the goal – that’s where it ends. It starts with YOU! Its about understanding who you are, learning to live your truth and reality, and then letting go that so that your goals have the space to manifest.
Now I’m not sure how much you know much about the six primary human needs? It’s here where the learning starts. There’s…
- Certainty – needing certainty or assurance to take action
- Uncertainty – needing change or ambiguity to take action
- Relating and Connecting
- Importance – needing a sense of importance / being looked up to
- Input – needing to contribute
- Growth and Development – needing to grow and develop in order to drive action
Now we all need a little of each of these, often in varying quantities, which makes us all unique, but the one I want to highlight is the primary human need of Relating and Connecting.
As humans we are different from other species through our need, desire, and drive for connection. I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t want to be loved and accepted; who doesn’t want to connect with others; who doesn’t want to be understood. Our other needs stem off this need.
Howard (aka Will Smith) was so on the mark in the movie ‘Collateral Beauty’, when he was talking about advertising and said the job of the advertising executive was not to sell stuff; it’s to connect. It’s to relate to another individual as to why they need, want, and desire what we are offering. It’s about CONNECTION! And that starts with connection with ourselves.
How on earth can I expect to relate to others if I don’t get me?
The piece that I think that is even more important, is the link between connection and time. In the scene from the movie where Death (aka Helen Mirin) talks about seeing and remembering the collateral beauty, she is talking about time – time to feel, time for the senses to kick in, time to connect.
So you can see that developing your ‘why’ or purpose is actually about understanding you; relating and connecting to yourself, and giving yourself the time and space to feel.
When we stop long enough to feel and truly connect with our hearts deepest desires, those immutable pieces of us that make us who we are, then, and only then, can we find that piece that is non-negotiable in our lives. That evasive thing called a ‘Why’, which at the end of the day is really not so evasive – if we give ourselves the time and space to connect with ourselves.
Prioritise ME today…