Photo Credit: Sophia Ernst
Photo Credit: Sophia Ernst


Innovation requires flexibility. But how do you keep flexibility while not getting off track? That’s where your why comes in. In Black Belt we teach that finding your why drives what we do and how we do it. It is your core, your lighthouse, or your guide.

What is a why? A why is the reason you do something. This idea was popularized by Simon Sink, a management guru. He teaches of the Golden Circle, which has at its center the word: Why. As he says, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” If you work at Denver Human Services your why might be giving resources to people in need. If you work with Denver Animal Protection your why might be helping animals find a new and loving home. Our why statements should align with our personal values and morals. Perhaps we like helping people or we want to make the world a more beautiful and inclusive place. Finding your why requires personal introspection. Take a moment to review your why statement. Do you love what you do? Does it bring you joy? What aspects of your job bring you joy?

Having an identified why statement can make all the difference. After returning from living and teaching in South America, I started looking for employment back in Colorado. I searched for months; applying to different jobs I thought I could do. I applied if my qualifications were worthy of the position. However, qualifications can be applicable to many different positions. I started to notice I was getting job offers I did not want. I felt like ship without a direction. I had nothing to guide me to the shores of gainful and meaningful employment. I realized I needed to define my values. What were my job values? Why did I want to work? I set aside some time, about 20 minutes, and laid out exactly what I was looking for. After identifying my values, if the job didn’t match that criteria, I didn’t apply. This allowed me to focus my attention on the jobs I cared about. Within three weeks I had a job offer I was excited to accept. Spending 20 minutes to outline my why changed my focus and thus changed my future.

“If you know your why, your how and what can change as needed” – Tina, Black Belt participant.

In a recent Black Belt, a student stated that to her the idea of why meant, “If you know your why, your how and what can change as needed.” This ideas pushes us towards the idea of why as guiding our action while allowing for the necessary ingredient of flexibility. If the why is your lighthouse it guides all innovations from the center. As the storm of confusion, process, and people change around us, our why keeps us on target. Why does our program exist? Why do we do what we do?  If we know that, our how and what can change. We are free to make choices and get creative without losing sight of our core. If we believe there is only one way, we begin to worry and start to believe there is only one “right” way to address something. We can get too scattered, unsure of direction and simply trying to fix issues without a purpose. Guided flexibility allows us to be creative, to find joy, and to try.

In the words of Diana Nyad, “find a way.”



Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Ted Talk

Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up – Ted Talk

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