I was introduced to Simon Senek and his book, “Start with Why,” by my dad a few years ago, and after completing a 1:1 evaluation, mine was pretty clear: “Trust – to create relationships based on trust.” Most of us can go through the motions in life without understanding the “why” behind our actions for a short period of time, but confusion and a lack of motivation usually set in. This is especially true when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.
Understanding our “why” on a deep level allows us to sustain our healthy habits in the long run, and it makes the process WAY more enjoyable. A shallow why, such as wanting to gain approval from others or become seemingly more attractive, is not only negative motivation, but it won’t last long either. We need to go deeper to develop and sustain our habits for the long haul. Why do I lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle? It allows me to show up more fully in every part of my life. I.e. I can enjoy difficult mountain adventures, I’m able to lift and move things on my own, I can spend time with family and friends doing challenging activities, my mood is better so my relationships are stronger, my brain fires quickly so I perform better at work, and I have the energy to live life to the fullest.
Other examples might include having the ability to be active with your children, having the energy to work long hours and then spend time with family, being emotionally balanced and keeping anxiety at bay, and being able to show up more fully in every aspect of life with friends and family. Become clear on why you want to make better choices for yourself, and you’ll quickly find that acting in the best interest of your own well-being becomes easier, and it will eventually become second nature if you’re continuously focusing on it.
So, how does one discover their Why? Journaling. And time. Ask yourself why you want to make healthy changes a part of your lifestyle and not just a 30-day challenge. Let the ideas and words flow onto the paper (or computer screen) without judgment. When I initially did this exercise, most of my reasons were shallow (i.e. mostly focused on my appearance), and I immediately felt a wave of discouragement and judgment towards myself. Don’t do this! And if you do, please realize it’s a very normal response and doesn’t warrant further negativity. **This is excellent practice in observing your thoughts without judgment and letting them go. Keep writing until you start to dive deeper, and ask yourself “why?” 4-5 times for each item listed to get more granular.
For example, “I want to feel better in the gym.” Why? “So I’m able to push myself harder.” Why? “So I can improve my endurance and strength.” Why? “So I’m able to complete strenuous activities with family and friends.” Why? “So I can continue to make amazing memories on adventures with my loved ones.”
Motivation driven by the ability to make amazing memories on adventures with loved ones is a much more stable and sustainable reason to make healthy choices than simply wanting to do feel better in the gym. There is nothing wrong with the latter, but it likely won’t enable you to make this a lifestyle as opposed to a transient goal. The transient goals are fine to have once you’re already clearly rooted in your deeper Why.
I often receive comments about being disciplined or “too responsible” when it comes to living a balanced lifestyle with my food, alcohol, exercise, and lifestyle choices, but it truly doesn’t require any white-knuckling or discipline. I am so strongly anchored by why I live a healthy and balanced lifestyle that I don’t feel like my life is lacking in any way because of it. In fact, I know I’m actively moving towards the life I want for myself as a result. If I hadn’t spent the time and energy to reflect on this, then I truly don’t believe I would be able to make the choices I do consistently from a stress-free foundation.
Give this exercise a whirl and feel free to share what comes up for you!