Finding Our Why

Finding Our Why

by Daniel R. Weiss

Last week, after Friday night services, as I was discussing Moses’s vulnerability, it was suggested to me that perhaps it wasn’t merely Moses feeling as though he wasn’t good enough to serve God (as I had suggested based on his speech impediment), but instead it was that Moses thought there was someone better for the job. This person was not suggesting that Moses lacked the ability or the knowledge of his own ability, but rather, Moses felt there was someone (in this case, Aaron, his brother) better suited for the job. In essence, Moses needed to know WHY he was chosen.

Goal setting is important. Sometimes more important than goal achieving. When we set goals, we realize that there are areas in which we can improve. Rather than referring to strengths and weaknesses, it is important to think of strengths and areas upon which we can improve. For some of us, that list is longer than for others.

Regardless of the length of our goals list, when we tackle them, we need to do so one at a time. One of my early mentors once said, “Do less, better.” He realized that all too often we take on multiple jobs, roles and goals at the same time. We think that we are multi-tasking and giving each of the tasks our full and undivided attention, but, we aren’t. It is therefore important that we narrow our goal and narrow our focus to become more successful.

In their book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling write, “The greatest challenge you face in narrowing your goals is simply that it requires you to say no to a lot of good ideas.” They go on to say, “There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.” We can’t do everything. Not at once anyway.

Take the Ten Plagues for example, the final three of which take place in this week’s Torah portion, Bo. It would have saved a lot of time and energy for all ten to happen at the same time. The impact however would not have been as strong. There needed to be focus on each one. There needed to be time to react. The same is true of our goals. Each plague, like a goal, needed to have its own determined impact.

McChesney, Covey and Huling suggest that the first step towards creating an impact is to determine your WIG (Wildly Important Goal). “In determining your wildly important goal, don’t ask ‘What’s most important?’ Instead begin by asking ‘If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?’ This question changes the way you think and lets you clearly identify the focus that would make all the difference.”

In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains the importance of understanding your “Why” in order to achieve exceptional things and inspire others to do the same. Your “Why” is your purpose, cause and belief. Your why is about your passion. Sinek says, “A WHY is 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 – everything you say and do.” Sinek goes on to explain that leaders inspire rather than manipulate. “Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.”

Moses is a prime example of this. Moses led, and the people followed. He taught, and the people were inspired. Moses is known as Moshe Rabbenu, Moses our teacher. In a school, our teachers are our leaders. They are inspirational leaders in the classroom. A truly successful teacher is one who motivates students to follow them. They do this by showing what inspires them. They do this by encouraging their students to discover what inspires each of them.

Once we know the WHY behind what we do, “the question (becomes) HOW will (we) do it? HOWs are (our) values or principles that guide HOW to bring (our) cause to life.” Sometimes this takes multiple iterations to get it right. It is why we focus on one goal at a time. Knowing the result, the achievement of one goal will impact the setting of another.

An article by Aaron Hochanadel and Dora Finamore, entitled Fixed and Growth Mindset in Education and How Grit Helps Students Persist in the Face of Adversity, in the Journal of International Education Research, explains that “Students who value effort are said to have a growth mindset. They perceive ability as a malleable skill.” When we know ourselves, and in turn teach our students, that our brains are capable of growth, it opens the possibilities of goal setting and achievement. It is not simply an innate, inborn ability that is a factor in our success and learning, it is grit and tenacity that allows one to grow.

Moses is often referred to as our greatest leader. Moses, however, knew that he needed to grow. He needed to learn from those around him. He needed to set goals and face challenges in achieving them, one at a time. And so too can we.

Shabbat Shalom,

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