Success and the Golden Circle

Imagine for a moment that success is a feeling, and not a result. If that were true, how successful would you describe yourself at this moment?

Everywhere we turn, people are chasing results: stock price, market share, positions, status, accolades and even Facebook Likes. Most of us admirably march through life on this path of accomplishing, achieving and generating. And then one day, if we can slow down enough to even notice, we realize how little of that time we’ve actually felt successful.

It turns out that feeling successful is mysteriously missing from our success formula.

Today, Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk “Start with Why: How great leaders inspire action” has over 1.9 million views. His discovery of ‘the golden circle,’ a powerful and biologically linked connection that comes when we are clear and articulate about our motivation, has hit a chord. His repeating refrain of ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ makes sense and his examples are inspiring many of us to earnestly wonder about purpose and how to leverage it in our lives.

There is another reason to explore your ‘Why’; it happens to be that mysteriously missing link to success.

Intimate connection with our core beliefs, and walking with the confidence to speak of them as we work, has a palpable effect. It’s inspiring. Operating this way produces not only results, but also the feeling of success that gives you the fuel to keep generating. It launches you squarely onto the path of growth. When we’re connected to ‘our Why’, we stay energized from the inside out, and meaning comes more from being in the experience and less from the results we get.

There are two things I’ve noticed that support getting us more in touch with this:

  1. Remember the biological reality. The part of the brain that makes decisions isn’t the strategic, so-called-rational part. It’s the feeling part that deals in gut instincts and emotional meaning. Most of us distance from this inconvenient truth, even after the neuroscience findings are explained. What it means for leaders is this: if you want to be inspired, and inspire others, you need to make room for conversations from the heart.

    In a recent meeting about purpose, a senior leader began with this, ‘at the risk of being thrown off the engineering reservation, I am going to say something.’ He then went on to tell his peers a story about an experience that was deeply meaningful to him. When he was done, the room was infused with inspiration, and the team had inched even closer to its ‘WHY’.

  2. Expect it to take courage. This gentle and humorous opening was a brilliant way to name the risk that was present in a culture that has a rich and successful history of valuing its ‘WHAT’ [goals and objectives] and its ‘HOW’ [methods and processes]. This leader knew that the heart-based ‘WHY’ speak, and the presence of all those pesky emotions, was new and fragile. So in addition to making space for himself to start this kind of conversation, he was also implicitly asking his colleagues to join him in protecting it from the more familiar and harshly suspect, strategic mind.

Getting in touch with what makes you feel successful is the beginning of this journey to inspired leadership. It signals you to be aware of when you’re operating from your intrinsic natural strengths and gifts. It supports you to lead from the inside-out, instead of the safer and more easily measured, outside-in. It also inspires you to play full out while effortlessly calling forth the best in others to apply their gifts toward whatever it is you’re doing.

What ways do you let people know what makes you feel successful?

What conditions are necessary for your team to talk about purpose?




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