Go Farther Together: How Individual Why Impacts Shared Vision

Two years ago, I was celebrating a big birthday and I convinced five of my cycling friends to ride 200 miles in one day. Our route started in Norman, Oklahoma, and our shared vision was to end up just southwest of Wichita, Kansas.


Early that morning, as my friends and I stood in the parking lot getting ready to head out, I asked everyone: Why? Why were they there? Why were they committed to this?


They looked surprised and then, one by one, began to answer. Each person answered differently, but with our shared vision, powered by our individual why’s to motivate us along the way, it was clear we were part of something bigger. We were engaged in something exciting that we could accomplish together and become better individually in the process.


We made it to “almost Wichita” and 200 miles later, four of us celebrated at the end. But, if you recall, six of us started the journey that morning, and we stopped to document our progress as we left Oklahoma and crossed the Kansas state-line.


Two members of our team made it only 160 miles, and yet they were a significant part of the reason the other four of us made it the entire way. These two team members shared in the process of pulling into the wind, offering words of encouragement, and moderating the pace for some of us (me) who weren’t the strongest riders.


The fact that not every team member was there at the finish is similar to how many collegiate sports teams have restrictions on the number of team members who can travel or compete. This means every member of the team doesn’t always get to play, yet each team member can play a significant role in the SHARED VISION when powered by their INDIVIDUAL WHY.


Our why is our purpose, our cause, that motivates us toward our vision. It creates loyalty to be part of something bigger than ourselves. So why is our why so powerful? One of the best answers to that comes from Simon Sinek, explaining what he calls, “The Golden Circle.”


Our why can serve as our internal motivation, or our DRiVE, and is based on what Daniel Pink calls Motivation 3.0, a far advanced type of motivation from 1.0 (basic needs for survival) and Motivation 2.0 (external motivation based on rewards and punishments). Motivation 3.0 is the type of motivation we need to engage our employees, colleagues, and, of course, our players. It’s where the performance of the task itself provides intrinsic reward. We know people who are more intrinsically motivated are more involved in their jobs, put forth more effort, and achieve more goals.


While an individual why, particularly where there are clear and significant roles, can motivate individuals toward a shared vision, it sometimes isn’t enough. So, what else can we do to empower individuals toward a shared vision?


In many instances, I’ve also found it to be important – whether in business or sports – to sit down with individual team members and discuss their individual vision along with their individual why. Have an intentional conversation around “where they see themselves now” vs. “where they want to go,” as well as how their vision and their why intersect with the team vision. Follow-up with a specific plan for short-term and long-term goals that are specific, measurable, and important to them. And, most importantly, develop a step-by-step process that is under their control for achieving their goals in a way that also positively impacts the team’s performance.


I am absolutely convinced that guiding team members to find their significance in the shared vision can help them achieve more than they ever dreamed of achieving on their own. As said in an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”