Values: The best tool for navigating a joyful life


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Simon Sinek

Sinek makes his claim in the classic and popular TEDx talk based on the book Start with Why. While he was focusing on advertising, the Golden Circle, is a pretty universal truth. Not only is it a useful concept when selling something, it is a real gem when encouraging or persuading anyone to give something a try. The Golden Circle basically states that successful people follow a consistent pattern when communicating. Rather than tell you what they do, they start by informing you why they want to do something, they then explain how they are going to do it and finally, they tell you what will happen. This means that they begin by sharing their passions before explaining their plan and finally the actionable steps necessary to achieve it. My now eleven year old responds well to this technique, as does every student I have taught in the last thirty years. If I make a compelling values laden argument that resonates with my audience, they will buy into what I have to say (if they share my values and move on if they don't). Because the theory makes an impact during communication, it also makes sense to use it as an organizing strategy for my thoughts and ideas. When you know why you do things you always have the ability to be authentic and display integrity.

I once wrote a post for on things I hope my son learns from backpacking I enjoyed writing it because it was a chance to stop, sit down and contemplate all the backcountry trips I have taken with Cai. Naturally, I pondered on why they are so special, not only that, it was a chance to reflect on the values and concepts I hope he will take with him and transfer into other areas of his life. I am now really excited for a three day trip we have coming up this weekend. As I reason why I do these things with Cai, it becomes really easy to define a successful trip. This in itself means I can make sure the trip is indeed successful. Knowing how far to walk each day, how much to take and how much to leave behind becomes very easy when I know the purpose of our venture.

This is the same process I use when planning lessons. I start by defining the values driving the class and the values I want the students to contemplate and hopefully embody. With this defined I have a compass and it is easy to orient my map. Like writing a story I then "start with the end in mind" this way, figuring out the best path from A to Z happens naturally. with the route planned I can then break the journey into small manageable chunks.

If I was to suggest only one strategy to use as a parent; or any other role for that matter, this would be it. Start with why.

Do you know why you do the things you do? Let me know if I can help.