What’s Your Why?

Given that the calendar just rolled over and many of us have been busy setting and embarking upon new goals for the year, I wanted to take a minute and share what I feel is the most  important part of this process – finding your why.  

Simply put, what it is the real reason a particular goal is so important to you?

For purposes of this article, my focus will be on one’s fitness, nutrition, and overall health related goals.  However, this principle can be applied to virtually anything.

As I begin my 16th year in the industry I’ve learned many things, but one thing stands out amongst all others when it comes to goal attainment.  If you are struggling to achieve your health related goals it’s because you either don’t know what your why is or you don’t have a strong enough why.

Consider the following.  Do you wake up each morning and go to work?  Chances are you do.  Do you take care of and provide for the needs of your children and loved ones?  Do you make time each day for social media or Netflix?  What about vacations?  

So why do you do these things?  You might not even particularly enjoy doing these things all of the time, but you still do them.  Earning an income is important for many reasons, as is taking care of our families.  We might not always want to, but at the end of the day we always do.  Can you see where I’m going here?  We have a very strong why as to do so.  

Some find trolling facebook and taking vacations fun and enjoyable, so we’ll make sure we take time for those as well.  Even if it feels like we don’t have the time.  Either way, I’m sure we can all agree that we have compelling reasons for doing the things we do each day.  

We do them because there is always a deeper meaning than what the given task suggests on the surface.  And it’s this deeper meaning that drives us and pushes us forward each day.  In other words, it keeps us from giving up.

Now take this and compare it to everyone’s favorite health related goal… losing weight.  Virtually everyone wants to do it, yet very few actually do.  Why do you think that is?  Hint, I already gave you the answer above.  

When someone comes to me and tells me that they would like to lose 10 pounds and can’t deliver a good reason as to why it’s important, I know it’s probably not going to happen.  Losing 10 pounds is a surface goal.  It doesn’t have any deeper meaning.  And if there is not any deeper meaning attached, it will not be attained.

If by chance it is achieved, it will not be maintained long term.  That is, unless you can unlock the deeper need or the true reason why losing 10 pounds is so important.

The “5 Whys” was a system originally used by the Toyota Motor Company that cuts to the core of why we want something.  The idea is whenever you want to accomplish something you ask your self why.  With whatever answer you come up with, keep asking yourself why a total of 5 times.

It sounds easy, but I assure you it’s not.  When I use this exercise with clients, most start to get stuck around why number three.  Why?  It forces them to dig deep and that can be uncomfortable.

Here’s an example from a past nutrition coaching client who wanted to lose weight:

What do you want to accomplish?

I want to lose weight.

Why do you want to lose weight?

I don’t know, I just do.  After a long pause…because I don’t like how my jeans fit.  I want to fit into a smaller size of jeans.

Why do you want to fit into a smaller size of jeans?

Because if I fit into a smaller size of jeans I’ll look better.

Why is looking better important?

I don’t know, because it is.  Okay… I guess because I’ll fee better about myself.

Why do you want to feel better about yourself?

If I feel good, I’ll have more confidence.

And why do you want to be more confident?

Because I’m tired of lacking self-confidence.  If I can be more confident with how I look, I’ll be more in control and able to get more out of life.

I could continue but I think you get the point.  While on the surface it appears to be about weight, yet it’s really about control, self-confidence, and wanting to get more out of life.  I think you’ll agree that this is much more powerful than just picking some random number to focus on.  

Past experience has taught me that you’re a lot less likely to give up on the prospect of increased self-confidence and getting more out of life, as opposed to wanting to lose 10 or 20 pounds.

So how do you know when you’ve achieved your real why?  Honestly, it’s hard to say for sure.  However, when you start getting that “uncomfortable feeling”, you’re probably on the right track and getting close.  If you start to notice some tears, I’d say that you have probably found your why.

If you think you might enjoy a deeper dive on this topic or could use some additional help, consider Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why or our on-line nutrition coaching program where we cover this and much more.