The Core Story: Connecting to Your “Why”

The Core Story: Connecting to Your “Why”

For all time, people have been looking heavenward and asking, “Who am I? Who are we? Why are we here? What is my role in that story?” This is the Core Story, the ever-present narrative that runs throughout our lives. The CS is most prominent at times of transition: in childhood, as we transition to adolescence, and again as we fall in love, mate and marry. It is on our minds as we consider our careers, as well, if we are fortunate enough to contemplate the distinctions between jobs and work, between obligations to survive and opportunities to thrive. Such spiritual reflections also return at various pauses in the road, as we consider job changes or new career choices, or moving to new communities and the impacts on ur families and relationships. And, of course, the CS is present as we age and contemplate the ends of our lives, now asking those same questions from the perspective of experience and, hopefully, some wisdom.

In his excellent books and talks on the topic, Simon Sinek asserts that our Core Stories need to “Start With Why,” (TEDx, 2006, and subsequent book, 2009) rather than our usual patterns that start with What we do and How we do it. “Why” is at the core of our purpose, the way we reveal the vast meaning of our Intention in the world. For some of us, the CS is huge in scale and ambition, like seeking to eradicate poverty. But for most of us, it revolves around our more immediate circles of influence, such as our family and community. In a workplace context, the CS arouses our passions to produce an outstanding product of great value to others, or to deliver a service that recipients regard highly and that our colleagues tremendously respect.

Exercise: What do you currently understand to be your Core Story? One way to access this information is to consider WHY you are living your life… your deeper sense of Purpose, then WHAT you have done or planned to do in order to fulfill this purpose, and then HOW you try to engage in activities that support what you do and why you do it. Find a space where you can take time to reflect, journal, paint, or otherwise clarify your CS as it now expresses itself. We are all “works in progress,” so please try not to expect perfection… this is a first draft.

Then: Discuss your responses with a trusted friend or colleague. (Indeed, you may both do this exercise and share your stories with one another).

Then: Reflect more fully on the connection of your activities to your purposeful work (from a previous Exercise) and your own evolving Core Story… what does it tell you? What might be meaningful to incorporate into your day, or at least into some aspects of your week?

Intention: Preparing to Notice What Matters

How do we best engage in What Matters? It all starts with Intention, that clarity of purpose to notice those things that matter and then act in a way that is consistent with what is important. Intention is course-setting, the compass that helps us navigate our ways through the challenges and complexities of our days, weeks, years, lives. Intention connects us with the core motivators of life, to offer a great contribution in service to the universe, to leave the world better than we entered, to be loving and caring friends, partners, parents, and citizens.

Taking the time to set intentions sounds simple enough, yet we tend to jump into the work day with little such thought. Instead, we usually react and respond to those immediate urgencies that call out to us from our Inbox, To-Do List, appointment calendars… we get caught in the weeds of trivial detail, and next thing we know it is well through the day. So, instead of just jumping into the day, take a few moments to set your Intention for the day. This ritual needn’t be complicated or time-consuming. It is a simple process of sitting still, breathing deeply, and noticing those things that matter to you on this day…how you wish to Be, rather than what you wish to do. This mindful process is the first step.

Exercise 1: Be seated comfortably, whether in your home or at your office. Close your eyes and breathe deeply several times. In your own words (silently or aloud), welcome the day. With each breath, notice an Intention that wants to emerge, such as to be patient, supportive, tolerant of others’ ideas, a good listener today. After a minute, restate those 2-3-4 Intentions that you will seek to fulfill on this day, reminded with each deep breath you notice throughout the day.

As I reflect on what I’ve just asked you to do, I realize how foreign it may be to do it. Many of us simply put one step in front of the other, with little time to reflect upon where we are going or why we are going there… it is simply “the ways things are” and the way they need to be… To set an Intention for the day is to pause that process, not to abandon it. It is critically necessary in order to be sure that we are actually heading in the right direction. As a practical matter, it keeps us from wasting our time and being productive. As a spiritual matter, it grounds us and fills our souls with the energy required to breathe, keep breathing, and being fully alive. So give it a try, notice how it feels, and then try it repeatedly each day for a week. I expect you will notice some things that I can’t begin to convey on these pages.