We all know that we’re researchers… and that researchers research stuff… But, if I asked you to tell me why you do what you do in one sentence, could you tell me?
If you can’t – then perhaps you need to find your why.
‘Find your Why’ is a concept created by Simon Sinek who believes that each of us has a ‘why’ at our core. Our ‘why’ affects the decisions we make and is the inner driver for why we do what we do. Our ‘why’ is the reason we get out of bed in the morning, the thing that makes our lives worth living.
Sinek believes that most of us know what we do…. “I’m a Research Associate”
He believes that we know how we do it … “I run tests in a lab / I create new technologies /I look at the worlds history/ I study the earth etc….”
But most of us never stop to think about why we do what we do.
Finding your ‘why’ is all about digging deep to explore who you are as a whole and find that unique ‘why’ that makes you tick.
Why is ‘why’ Important?
Why is important for you on a personal level because you’ll find energy a lot more sustainable if you act in harmony with your why. When you are faced with choices, if you are making a decision that aligns with your why, then that decision is likely to bring you greater fulfilment and contentment than a decision that goes against your ‘why’. Knowing your why can help you to show up as who you want to be in the world.
But why is also very important for us as researchers because the ‘why’ of research is what hooks people’s interest and gets them to back what we do.
Consider these examples:
“I analyse microbes. My research is ground-breaking. It could change the world.”
“I change the world. I do it by carrying out groundbreaking health research. I analyse microbes.”
Who would you rather listen to?
How to discover your why…
Whys are strange things – because they tend to float to the surface in everything that you do.
Simon Sinek’s why is “To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world”, and this has come out in all the different areas of work that he’s been involved in.
So, sometimes it’s enough to just look back and see if there’s a common thread.
Mike – for example – has worked in education, in a bank, for a charity, with children, and now with researchers… but in all those situations, he’s found himself challenging people to recognise that the way things are isn’t the way that they have to be… and to see that change is possible.
Katie – for example – has worked in a museum, for a council, as a self-employed artist, and now as a researcher development advisor… but in all those situations, she’s gravitated towards supporting people to make the most of the opportunities that they have.
What if it’s not that simple?
If you can’t see a common thread, then you can start to ask yourself…
What do you do?
… And why is that important?
… And why is that important?
… And… (guess what?)… why?
Or start to ask yourself deep questions (!)
“If you knew you were about to die, what’s the one message you’d like to leave behind for people to think about?”
Or more superficial ones.
“If you went to work in a [insert completely different sector here], what’s the job that you’d really like to do there?”
Try and write a ‘Why statement.’
When you have some ideas, then try and write a ‘why statement’.
Mike: “I believe Higher Education could be radically different… so I try to model new forms of research environment at the UoB… I work in researcher development”.
Katie: “I believe that people are important… so, I set up opportunities for people to develop… I organise the Bristol Clear mentoring scheme”.
You: “I believe that… so I …. I do… ”
Start living your why
Some people may find their ‘why’s’ quite quickly but for others it may not be so obvious or instant (Katie still struggles to find hers). It may be something you need to explore for weeks, months or years in order to clarify it, and that’s ok. The closer we get to finding our ‘why’s’ then the more we can live in harmony with it.
Finding your why can potentially be quite alarming. You may find that you have strayed away from your why and that you are doing something that you don’t want to do or behaving in a way you don’t want to behave. It may require you to make a change in some area of your life which can be scary. However, by taking steps towards living our why it will always lead to a more purpose filled life.
So next time you have a big decision to make, an event where you’ll be networking with others or you’re thinking about how to start your grant application… consider starting with why.
Find your why Book – by Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek – Ted Talk