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The Danger Of Loving Your ‘Why’ More Than You Love Yourself, And What You Can Do About It

Written by: Erica Bowen, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The number of purpose-led or purpose-driven businesses has increased dramatically in recent years, and ‘purpose’ is now a key driver for new businesses – for example, more than 12,000 social enterprises were created in the last year in the UK – more than ever before, according to Social Enterprise UK (October 2021). Purpose is a narrative that is growing in attention with more commercial for-profit businesses creating purpose and social impact strategies. Making an impact is becoming more important than making profit.

As coaches, we often help people connect to their ‘Why’ – their reason for being, their purpose. Simon Sinek famously highlighted the importance of knowing our ‘Why’ as leaders, as it is this that people buy into rather than the ‘what’ we do, or ‘how’ we do it. Although knowing and expressing our why can inspire others to join and support our movement, there is a danger in being a purpose-driven founder or entrepreneur.

From my experience of coaching rebellious female leaders who have big visions to create a world that is fair, just, and sustainable, this can come at a personal cost of overwhelm, self-doubt and burnout, of strained relationships and an endless belief that you are not doing enough, which if left unchecked can translate into a belief that you are not enough. You begin to prioritise your Why ahead of your own needs; you sacrifice yourself in pursuit of the change you want to make. You are under-charge because your impact is more important than profit, and your quality of life drops through the floor. All of this you justify to yourself as your mission is THE most important thing to you.

However, there is no mission if you are not able to lead it. Eroding yourself in the process is the ultimate form of self-sabotage. Why would you set yourself up to fail if your mission was the most important thing?

Having a Why that inspires us is incredible – it is why we get out of bed; it keeps us going when things are tough. However, when your Why, your mission is vast, leading it as an individual can be exhausting. It is the ultimate irony that your greatest motivator may also pose the greatest threat to your wellbeing.

So, how do you begin to redress the balance without feeling guilty that you’re not doing enough? How do you lead your mission and protect your wellbeing?

  1. Clarify how you want to live: This is not a selfish question, but your answer is key to creating a life that works for you AND your mission. Clarify your values. Prioritise each day activities that feed your soul; put them in the diary as meetings, as non-negotiables. Commit to not cancelling them. Create a pricing strategy that enables the life you want to lead.

  2. Monitor process and outcome: If you only focus on the problem you want to solve you will only ever see the problem. If you focus on the steps you are taking towards solving the problem, you will see progress. Defined your impact and impact indicators. Break you’re your impact goal into feasible goals that culminate in the achievement of your mission. Monitor activity.

  3. Reflect on progress regularly: Every time you feel you are not doing enough remind yourself of what you HAVE done, what you ARE doing.

  4. Create a gratitude practice: By taking time each day to connect to what you are grateful for across all aspects of your life, will help maintain your connection to your wider context and enable you to find some perspective.

  5. Ask for help: You do not have to do all the things. If, however, like most of my clients you are an over-giver, then asking for help will feel alien and may even make you question your worth. Asking for help will empower you to create the space and time for yourself, to share the burden, to gain clarity on next steps. You do not have to lead alone.

My ‘Why’ is to create hope in the world and work with others to do the same (hence my company name Hope-MakersLtd). I do this by coaching rebellious female leaders who have big ideas to make the world a better place so that they can lead with courage and protect their wellbeing.


Erica Bowen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Erica is a registered forensic and coaching psychologist and internationally recognized expert in the prevention of family violence. Formerly a senior academic and Professor, Erica left academia in order to pursue her mission of bringing more hope into the world. She achieves this through working with social entrepreneurs in order to help them to maximize the success of their business without burning out. Her training and experience enable her to, where relevant, bring a unique understanding of the origins and impact of trauma on entrepreneurship, success, management, and leadership into her coaching. She is also able to help clients process trauma through the use of Havening techniques if that is needed. Erica is the host of the Hope-Makers podcast, which shines a light on stories of hope through interviews with inspiring people doing inspirational hope-making work.



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