The Why, How, and What of You

Have you ever been asked the question, “who are you?” Feels unfair, right? Our identity, the way we define who we are, gets wrapped up in layers upon layers of information, stories, truths and half truths, our version and versions from other people. It’s so much information to process that weeding through all of it can lead to confusion and interpretations in the moment. Instead of holding true to a foundation, we supply an answer that is most recent.

In 2009, Simon Sinek gave his seminal TED talk on the Golden Circle. The framework – start with why – applies to how we define “who we are.” Does your definition begin with the “what” – the stuff you do (which changes over time and contextually)? Or, does it begin with why you are here (purpose)?

The framework:
1) Why – why are you here? (Purpose)
2) How – How will you go about living your purpose? (Values)
3) What – What strengths do you have? What actions do/will you take? (Strengths applied – what you do)

When you get asked the question – “who are you?” – start with why.


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Dave Newell is director of the Chidsey Center for Leadership Development.

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