In order to achieve anything significant in life, you have to have a compelling reason to do so. Otherwise, it would be difficult to achieve the results you want because, inevitably, you will hit roadblocks along the way.
Of course, everyone has a “why” to do everything. After all, if you didn’t have a reason to do something, why do it in the first place? But the question is, does the “why” you’ve chosen to improve your health and fitness excite you enough to keep you going for the long run? Let’s find out what if that’s the case by first figuring out what it takes to find the right “why” for success.
What Type of “Why” are You Looking For?
In his wonderful book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek helps us understand that, if you want to achieve anything worth doing in life, you must first…well…start with why. As I mentioned above, if you don’t have a reason to do something, it’s unlikely you’ll have the motivation to take action at all. This is partly why, when you tell a child to do something “because I said so”, they rebel. Because “because I said so” is not a reason, it’s a command.
So, when your doctor tells you that you need to eat better and exercise to lower your blood pressure “because I said so”, there’s a reason why you’re not truly compelled to take action. Because the reason the doctor gave you is similar to the reason you gave the child…it’s a command. And, like the child, you don’t like being told what to do, so, you don’t do it.
Now, I’m not calling you a child, per se (although, I’m also not calling you a child. If you think about it, adults have very similar reactions to certain situations, much like a child. This is simply one example). The point is, although you have a reason, or “why”, to start working out and eating better, it’s not the right “why” for you. This is called extrinsic motivation. Basically, this is the type of motivation that comes outwardly, which is typically the type of motivation we fight against.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, are personal reasons as to why we want to accomplish something. However, there a couple of different types of intrinsic motivation that we can have. And, depending on the type of intrinsic motivation you’re following, you may still come up short on your goals in the end.
For instance, one reason that I hear often for losing weight is to get in shape for a wedding or vacation. This is great because, as a good goal should be, a wedding or vacation is time-sensitive, meaning, there is a specific date or time that you have in mind to reach your goal. Also, this is a form of intrinsic motivation because YOU have decided that you want to lose weight, not your doctor or your spouse.
However, this is where things get tricky. Although a wedding or vacation is good motivation to get started down the health and wellness path, it’s usually not long-lasting. What happens most of the time in this situation is that, once the wedding or vacation comes and goes, you end up reverting back to your old ways of eating and not working out. This, in turn, causes you to put your weight back on, which, in turn, reinforces your belief that you’re not able to sustain a healthy lifestyle after all.
So, really, all this turns out to be is extrinsic motivation in disguise. Having a destination to shoot for is a great way to get started, but, usually, a terrible way to keep you going. In order to do that, you’re going to need much more than wanting to fit into that new bathing suit.
Let the Forces Be With You
As I’ve alluded to already, you need to find the right “why” to achieve your goal AND to want to continue to move forward from there. In order for that “why” to be worthy of your time, it must be intrinsic in nature. But, not only does it need to be intrinsic, it must also follow the forces of motivation.
More specifically, as Daniel Pink describes them, there are 3 forces of motivation that you must take into account when deciding if you’ve found the right “why” to move you forward:
#1) Autonomy – As I’ve mentioned already, we want to have the freedom to do what we want. Finding the right “why” gives you the freedom to pursue better health and fitness on YOUR terms.
#2) Mastery – Not only should you want to become healthier because it means something to you, you should also have a desire to continue to level-up your health as you move closer and closer toward your goal.
#3) Purpose – Likely the most important of the 3 forces, your “why” must follow the purpose that you have in life. If you don’t know what your purpose is, or simply haven’t articulated it yet, I strongly suggest you do so.
On the surface, it seems silly to have such deep meaning behind wanting to get healthy. After all, shouldn’t we just naturally be motivated to exercise? Unlikely. Actually, as a “fitness buff” myself, there are plenty of days that pop up in which I don’t want to work out. There are instances when I’m out with friends or family where I want to give in to that nice, juicy burger and fries. And, there are times when I just want to lay on the couch and binge-watch the whole Star Wars series from beginning to end (yes, I am a Star Wars junky…what of it?!?!). However, that’s not who I am and that’s doesn’t fit into my purpose in life.
How to Find the Right “Why” for You
Instead, I understand that choosing to skip a workout, or giving in to the burger and fries, or binge-watching Star Wars doesn’t help me achieve my purpose in life and doesn’t help me to become the best version of myself possible. That’s because I’ve found a compelling “why” to keep me going forward, even when times are tough.
To help you find the right “why” to keep you motivated for the long-term, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Let me elaborate. To get to your “why” start, first, by asking why you want to start working out and eating better. Your first answer might be something like “because I want to fit into my new bathing suit”. This is your surface-level “why”.
Next, to get a little deeper, ask why you want to fit into your new bathing suit. Your answer might be something like “because it will help build my self-confidence”. Now we’re getting somewhere. This is just a step beyond surface-level and entering into the realm of the ultimate “why”.
Finally, as “why” a 3rdtime to figure out why you want to be self-confident. Your answer might be something like “because, if I have confidence in myself, I will be more able to believe that I can achieve the things that I want to in my life”. Now, that’s a “why” worth working for.
As you can see, the trick behind 1, 2, 3 is simply asking “why”, 3 times so that you find the REAL reason behind your actions. Only when you do this will you find the fortitude and motivation to push forward when times get tough. Because, as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
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