THE BIG “WHY” OF NEURO-SEMANTICS
In preparing for my next project I recently re-read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, 2009. While it is a business book and a book on leadership, more than that it is a book that fits with what we do in Neuro-Semantics about intentionality. Using the “why is that important” question, and holding each answer and then asking it repeatedly, we move a person to find or to create his or her big why. Doing that simultaneously enables a person to discover and activate one’s highest values.
In the book, Start with Why, Sinek compares three questions to the three functions in an organization. Taking why, how, and what, he argues that the “why” question functions as the CEO of a company, the “how” question is the domain for the executive managers, and the “what” question is how a company manifests its purpose or why. He calls this the Golden Circle and draws three concentric circles putting why in the middle, then how, then what. He then writes:
“It starts with clarity. You have to know why you do what you do.” (p. 65)
“Knowing why is essential for lasting success…” (p. 47)
What is our why? Do you know? Neuro-Semantics began with a significant and a big why. Today you will find it in our Vision and Mission statement. Do you know that statement by heart? Do you know how the why has developed and evolved over the years?
What was the why when we began Neuro-Semantics in 1994? It was to “take NLP to a higher level of quality professionally and ethically.” Our big why at that time was due to the negative PR that some had been creating for the field of NLP. Feeling excited about the power of the communication model and of the many tools for effectively facilitating life-changing transformations— our why was to apply to ourselves and to live what we were training before offering it to others. We wanted to be living examples and respectful in a non-manipulative way. We wanted to be the change that the models enabled us to practice. Our why also had to do with collaboration— believing that we can do more together than alone or apart, and believing that we live in a world of abundance, not scarcity, our vision was to create an international society of men and women practicing NLP. That was our why in the 1990s and into the 2000s.
Then in 2005 I discovered something that I never knew, something that not a single article or book on NLP had ever mentioned. Namely, NLP grew out of the Human Potential Movement. It grew out of the work of Maslow and Rogers, the people at Esalen, and that the persons modeled— primarily Perls and Satir, along with Bateson, were second-generation leaders of the Human Potential Movement and that they lived and worked together at Esalen. Amazing! I took my training with Richard Bandler and then worked with him for four years. He had asked me to write three books for him and to work to re-establish the Society of NLP, and yet for all of that, I never knew that history.
That changed everything. Now we had an even bigger Why. What we are about in NLP and Neuro-Semantics to not merely facilitating precise and accurate communication, or self-development, or enabling people to change, we are also about unleashing the hidden potentials within people. Human beings have a higher nature— they are driven from within by a self-actualizing drive to be their best selves, to be responsible, to contribute, to make a difference in the world, etc. This is true for individuals, for families, companies, organizations, for nations, for the whole human race. That’s our higher purpose in Neuro-Semantics.
This goes back to Maslow’s original idea of the bright-side of human nature, that psychology and philosophy had mostly “sold human nature short,” and that there is a higher nature within us. This is the bigger Why that re-sets the context for the self-development programs, for enriching communication, for helping people make the changes that they want.
“Why must come first. The why provides the context for everything else.” (Sinek, p. 70)
Today our why in Neuro-Semantics is not only that people can change, but that as people change so do families, and as individuals and families change, businesses also transform, and with those changes, the world itself is made a better place. That’s our vision— changing people one conversation at a time, changing the world via one person at a time.
We begin by first helping people understand the meaning of the things and events and activities of life so that they can cope well and then master the challenges of work and love. From there, we then work to enable people to create rich and great meanings so that it not only “makes sense” (meaning1) but that it gives them a reason-to-live, that it blesses their lives with meaningfulness (meaning2).
Why do we do what we do in Neuro-Semantics? So that people have and live inspirational lives. Whether it is coaching, training, consulting, or therapy, what we do begins with people “making sense” of things so that they are well-functioning as people in their friendships, relationships, parenting, making a living from a job that fits for them, etc. When they get to this point— they are surviving and beginning to thrive. But we want more for them. We want more for ourselves. We want people to thrive at the highest level possible. We want them to be fully-functioning, to use Carl Roger’s phrase, and not just well-functioning. Sinek again:
“Knowing your why is not the only way to be successful, but it is the only way to maintain a lasting success and have a greater blend of innovation and flexibility. When a why goes fuzzy, it becomes much more difficult to maintain the growth, loyalty, and inspiration that helped drive the original success.” (Sinek, p. 50)
The danger for any person and any community is letting the why go fuzzy. To avoid this we have to keep refreshing our way (hence this article). It is also to keep relating what we do and how you do it with our why. When we do that, then why truly becomes an inside-out process.
“Great leaders … inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.” (p. 6)
“When most organizations or people think, act, or communicate they do so from the outside in, from what to why … but not the inspired companies or leaders. [They] think, and act, and communicate from the inside out.” (Sinek, p. 39)
From why comes the what— what do you do, and after that the how— how do you do that?
“A why s just a belief. That’s all it is. Hows are the actions you take to realize that belief. And whats are the results of those actions.” (Sinek, p. 67)
From our why of inspiring people to get real, to unleash their highest potentials, to change the world our how is through Neuro-Semantic Trainings and workshops, Meta-Coaching, Business consulting, Leadership Development, and Therapeutic Change.
“When we are inspired, the decisions we make have more to do with who we are and less to do with the companies or the products we’re buying.” (Sinek, p. 74)
Here’s to the big why of Neuro-Semantics. May that why keep you inspired and motivated in doing what you do and inform you in how you do what you do. And if this big why is new to you— come and join us.