Begin With Why

Have you ever looked back and wondered, “Why in the world did I do THAT?”


Sometimes that’s my whole life. I’ve wondered at times about getting the question tattooed on my forehead.

Last time we looked at the deadly self-infection of Results Syndrome. When I’m motivated by immediate results, I often find myself wondering (too late) why I did something so dumb.

Since one of my big personal goals is a more intentional life, I need to get better about making choices. I’m thinking that an important element in avoiding Results Syndrome is beginning with WHY.

whatSimon Sinek examines this seemingly basic notion in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. He offers a nice visual to reinforce the idea.

Too often, we make choices like this. We decide what to do based on pressure, fear, desire, or some other immediate stimulus. Then we work toward the center and—after the fact—ask why. In this model we end up either questioning our personal sanity or creating elaborate justifications for a decision that makes little sense.

Simon suggests that we make better choices when we begin with why.

whyWhy cuts deep. In a culture that skips along the surface of life, why points me to my core values. Why centers my thinking more on eternal principles and less on temporary cultural or personal whims.

Why guides me toward “what’s right” and away from “what works.” Why prompts consideration of “what’s best” rather than “what’s possible” or “what’s easiest.”

A young person who stops to ask why might be better equipped to face pressure to compromise on issues of drugs, alcohol, or sexuality. A parent might be more apt to listen openly and lead rather than herd.

A politician who seriously asked why might be less inclined to avoid difficult issues based solely on a desire to be re-elected. A voter might look past appearance and ideological rhetoric.

A church that asks why might look less like an exclusive club catering to a better class of sinner. A follower of Jesus might be more forgiving and accepting, less inclined to judge and condemn.

I spend a lot of time and energy wondering what to do and how to do it. A lot of my prayers are about seeking guidance about what God wants me to do or how to follow Jesus in a particular situation. Perhaps I’m not aiming at the center of the target.

Maybe why is the center, the place to begin. When “what to do” and “how to do it” flow from “why am I doing it” I might spend less time looking back and wondering why I made such an obviously harmful choice.

I think God cares more about my character and my heart than my achievements. I suspect that if I act from the right why, if my heart’s centered on His purpose instead of mine, He’ll use even my imperfect efforts to accomplish great things.

Can you see any places where “beginning with why” might be helpful?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site