Why, What, How? Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Rebecca’s Golden Circle

The New Year is upon us!  Many of us are carrying over into 2016 resolutions we’d like to have accomplished in 2015.  We may have had firm intentions at the start of last year to follow through, but got distracted or lost focus as the year progressed.

Here at CWW, our resolution is to finish a book that we’ve been working on for the last 6 months.  The deadline for the book is at the beginning of April so we are acutely in touch with pressure to “Finish the Book!”  When we first took on the project, we had difficulty getting started-it seemed so huge. Although we used some of the standard techniques for initiating action, such as breaking down goals into realistic, measurable objectives, and listing daily efforts toward our goal, we were still not writing.

Rebecca’s husband offered some useful advice that helped break through this initial period of resistance.  Rather than setting objectives related to results (e.g., finish one chapter this week) instead commit to short blocks of time (write for 1 hour at least four days a week).  For someone who wants to get in shape, that might look like exercising for 5 minutes three times a week.  For a poet or an artist who is stuck, that might mean free-form writing, painting, drawing, or sculpting for 20 minutes several times a week without worrying about creating a finished product.  Even though, for us, the first of these short sessions were not very productive, they got our feet wet and helped us feel more connected to our goal.

Our friend Katy Davis also introduced us to a great warm-up tool from motivational guru Simon Sinek called the Golden Circle (we love circles so this was a natural fit for us).  The Golden Circle involves using a large sheet of newsprint paper about 18″ x 24″.  The instructions are to draw a large bulls-eye with three layers.  In the inner circle write “Why“, in the middle layer “How” and in the outer layer “What“.

The What category states what you want to accomplish; the How layer outlines the means that you would go about doing so; and the Why describes the reason you are doing it.  This last category is the most important but perhaps the hardest-it identifies the motivation for doing what you’re doing.  This should be more of a philosophical statement, basic and broad.  You can think of the Why as a belief, How as the actions you take to realize that belief, and What as the results of those actions.

When we did this exercise, we found it easiest to start with the What layer–Write a book on positive psychology and art therapy.   (For you it might be exercising regularly, or making 10 paintings next year, or anything that is on your list of resolutions). But the How and the Why sections were challenging.  We initially filled up the Why section fairly quickly with 8-10 statements like “Help art therapists see why Positive Psychology matters” and “Show the magic that art therapy brings to positive psychology.”  However, we realized that these points really belonged in the How section.  We had to ferret out the core of why we wanted to do those things, to simplify our intention.  Eventually we determined that our main focus was simply “we art therapists, like our clients, need to feel more hopeful and more empowered” and “we need to create new ways of seeing and thinking.”

Katy also created a Golden Circle.  She has been working on setting up a database and storytelling around the science of happiness.  She started with lots of words in the outside perimeter of the circle because, she said, she needed to “get the variables out” before she committed to putting them into any particular section.  That then helped her to fill out the”What” and the “How” fairly easily, but she also struggled with the “Why”.  She ended up going through the same “distilling” process, refining her “Why” to simply be “people will actually be happier”.

As is evident from both images, we resolved our Golden Circles quite differently, but ended up with the same feeling of clarity and focus.  In the end, not only did we have a diagram that gave us a different way of mapping out our goals, as well as a game plan outlined by the How section, but we were also jazzed and ready to jump in.

So, as you begin the new year, if you have aspirations or goals that you would like to accomplish, consider using the Golden Circle exercise to help motivate you and get you started.  Feel free to share your results with us on our facebook page or here on our website.

Wishing you a most fulfilling 2016!

Positively Yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Make a Golden Circle with something you are hoping to accomplish next year.  Use a large sheet of newsprint paper about 18″ x 24″.  Draw a large bulls-eye with 3 layers and in the inner circle write Why” in the middle layer How, and in the outer layer What.  See if new insights emerge.  We would suggest that you also do a collage afterwards for each of the sections (you could do it on the original piece of paper or another one).  It may add even more clarity, focus, and inspiration.