When I was working with Natalie Norton earlier this year, she asked me to define my why by way of a little exercise. Take a piece of paper, divide it into four and label each section: spiritual, family, personal, financial. In each section, I was to write five goals. I love setting goals, so the challenge was right up my alley, and pretty easy to fill out. I don’t put a ton of pressure on myself when I set goals, and despite my analytical nature, I don’t over analyze exercises like this one. So, when I read that step #2 was to cross off a goal off from each category, it wasn’t that hard. One by one the exercise called for elimination of more goals. And it got harder and harder, but I ended up with three basic goals: glorify God, raise great kids, and inspire others.
Around the same time, I was reading Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. If I was to make a short list of books that have changed my life, Start With Why would probably be number two or three. The message is simple: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. People don’t connect with what you sell, they connect with what you believe. Martin Luther King didn’t make history by stating that he had a plan, he made history by stating that he had a dream.
And all of a sudden, a million tiny pieces fell into place. Light bulbs were going off in my head like flashes on the cameras of the paparazzi. My roles as designer, stationer, entrepreneur, momma, wife, etc weren’t WHO I was, they were just WHAT I did. WHO I was had a lot more to do with WHY: the motivation behind getting out of bed every morning. So, I went back to the three basic goals and started mulling them over. They had to do with WHO, not WHY, so I needed to do some work on that. What I knew:
- That I’m on this earth to glorify God.
- That I’ve been given the immense responsibility of raising three precious kiddos.
- That I really get a lot out of feeling like I’ve helped people.
I have a feeling that I’m making this sound easy by summarizing it in this fashion. It has NOT been easy, though. Easy would be looking at people around me, and saying, “I’m going to be that,” and just copying someone else’s why, or sit through a class and have someone tell me what I was supposed to be. I was determined to do the hard work to figure out this whole WHY thing. I wrote this post on Finding Your Purpose back in May, and while at that point, I had done a lot of defining, I hadn’t summarized my why into a “purpose statement”.
So last week, I summarized. Here’s what I ended up with:
And here’s why:
- Glorify God, authentically. I know I’ve been put on this earth for some big little things, but when people say their purpose is “to glorify God,” I think it sounds like a cheesy Sunday School answer. The other problem I have with this statement is that it sounds cookie-cutter, and I hate being cookie-cutter. And last but not least, I’ve always been afraid that if I say my purpose is to glorify God that Christians will call me a hypocrite and non-Christians will think I’m a Bible-thumper. (Which I’m not). But when I tagged “authentically” onto the statement, I found freedom. I don’t have to be like everyone else, and God knows that. He made me unique, and one of the best ways I can honor Him is to capitilize on those characteristics. And I love this, ya’ll. He loves me for me, and it’s ok if I glorify Him with the unique talents He’s given me. Thank goodness I don’t have to be cookie-cutter.
- Exemplify the power of choices and change. This statement really had to do with my kids. If there is one thing that I want my kids to know and understand growing up, it is that their choices determine their destiny. What we decide to do today will affect our lives six months from now. As I was writing the purpose statement, though, I realized that it’s not just about my kids understanding that and seeing that. It’s really a message I want to share with the world. Decisions determine destiny. And change is not to be feared. Staying the same is a lot scarier sounding than using personal growth concepts to progress in life.
- Love with gratitude and creativity. This statement went through several iterations. I knew that I wanted the words “gratitude” and “creativity” to be in my purpose statement. I wanted to inspire people, too, so for a while, the statement read, “Inspire, empower, and encourage others with gratitude and creativity.” But in living out the “why”, I’ve realized that inspiration is a by-product of authentic love. If I’m actively and publicly practicing my efforts to love with gratitude and creativity, then I’m going to trust that inspiration, empowerment, and encouragement are going to be what I’m able to offer the world.
- And to do it all, profitably. A little-known fact: before this year, I tended to under price my products and services. Profitability was hard. I felt like I had to “help people” for free. Putting my why into perspective has helped me realize that I have a great deal of value to offer the world, and that volunteering is what you do for free. Helping people has a justifiable price tag attached to it. There is nothing wrong with charging people for goods and services. There is something wrong with working for free.
All of a sudden, I realized that the key messaging (or at least the beginnings of it) for my authentic brand, lay right in front of me. It had been there all along, I just hadn’t been willing to really embrace it, and do the hard work to organize it into filtered, summarized statements.
So, that’s it, folks. The why behind the Whitney English brand: use each day to live authentically, love whole-heartedly, and the result will be a well-designed life.
What’s your WHY?