Simon Sinek’s Starting with Why and Caregiving
A caregiver’s function is to provide care. But what is their purpose? Why is it so important to take care of people? Answers to these questions may seem obvious to some, while to others they present rabbit holes of answers that seem to unendingly raise new questions. But the very acts of asking and thinking through why we provide care, and what the goals and values of caregiving are, can return the gifts of enthusiasm, better service and strength of mind.
Consider the following:
I had trouble getting up one morning. The heat in my house was broken, my cat was snuggled up to me, and the blankets on my bed secured all the warmth we two could make. I had no immediate obligations. There was no reason to get up.
Having had a few scattered days like this, I was worried. I’ve never been a morning person, but not long ago I woke early consistently for work. Of course, the blanket igloo and the cat weren’t enough for me to be satisfied during this lull. So, like so many people on so many mornings, I scrolled mindlessly through Facebook and with needless repetition checked my email accounts.
A few days prior I had submitted several scripts I had written to a local festival of short plays. I was hoping by scrolling and email checking I’d find out if one of the plays had been accepted. After wasting too much time, I finally got word that two of the plays would be produced. I immediately cast off my covers and sprung out of bed into my heatless room and said aloud, half to myself and half to my cat, “that was what I needed to get up this morning.”
Then I paused. That seemingly minor observation carries power. If I hadn’t learned of these play productions, how much time would I have wasted watching other people record their lives online before I got up to live my own? Unfortunately, I believe I would have wasted as much as I could get away with before my first obligation for the day. Before I had a reason to get up. Before having a why.
That same day I had watched Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk Start with Why. His idea in the talk is that people and organizations are most successful when they begin with their purpose (their why) in mind, speech and practice (rather than the means –how- or product -what- of delivering the purpose). This struck me as obvious. Of course you should start with why you’re doing something, otherwise there is no reason to do it, or to be motivated.
But as I continued to listen, I began to see more and more that just because the idea is simple doesn’t mean that it is, all the time and everywhere, effectively implemented. It’s not. And in our high information time, we seem steeply inclined to focus on the what, which is much more visible, that sets something apart from other things (an individual from her peers, a business from its competitors, a non-profit finding it’s deliverable niche; all of these considered only by their superficial differences). And then I thought back to how, a few hours earlier, a bit of good news compelled me to vault from comfort into a cold room, without thought, and exclaim to my cat that I had a purpose.
The video is worth your time. You can check it out here.
This idea of starting with why is important for caregivers because of the incredible demands that are placed on them. There are so many different people to serve (each with their own challenges and gifts), trainings to undergo, protocols to observe, meals to be made, and medications to be administered (the list goes on). If there is no solid, recognized and believed-in purpose for all of this frenetic activity, then the whole enterprise of serving others is doomed to fail. But when we start by conceptualizing and articulating why we provide care, then there is no challenge too daunting in our mission.
So breathe. Then ask, “Why?” You can as it out loud , ask your cat if it helps.