What is your ‘Why’?

When I meet with clients for the first time, one of my first questions is always, “Why are you hiring me? Why now?”

The range of answers is as diverse as my clients: some want to be able to play with their grandkids, some just want to be around to see their grandkids grow up, some have more aesthetic goals, like wanting to lose baby weight, or its spring (i.e.: bathing suit season), and some have an active vacation planned, where being in shape is definitely going to enhance their experience.

None of these answers are better than another, BUUUUT…. Some motivations may create more lasting results than others.

See, there are two different types of motivation: external and internal. External motivators are defined as behaviors that earn us a reward, or allow us to avoid punishment. Internal motivators are typically performed for the sake of doing them, or a personal reward.

Here are a few examples: losing 20 lbs to go to your high-school reunion? That would be an external motivator. Avoiding fried foods because you don’t like the way you feel after eating them? Internal. Running 5 miles daily because it clears your head? Internal. Starting an exercise routine to avoid your family history of heart disease? External.

So that last example is where things get a little tricky. There’s a layer that lives underneath our motivation. It’s committment.

The person with the family history of heart disease may or may not be successful with her new habit depending on how much she believes the research and trusts her doctor.

And someone who is 100% committed to looking his best for his highschool reunion just to show those highschool friends how great his life is, is going to be successful.

What I can guarantee though, is unless the person who is going to their reunion finds another reason to keep up his newfound physique, those 20 lbs are going to come back on almost immediately after the event.

Often times we start a new habit for one reason, but then find our motivators changing, and we keep doing it for a completely different reason!

That person who is trying to impress high highschool friends? He just found out how much he likes cooking his own meals instead of eating take-out (internal motivator). And although he has met a new love interest at the gym (external motivator), he really likes the way he feels after strength training (internal motivator).

And in this situation, the why’s are compounding. We’re adding more and more. The more whys you have, the more you are likely to be successful – regardless of whether they are external or internal motivators.

imageIt all comes back to the Why.Why are we doing the things that we are doing. Although we can truly be successful when we do things for external reasons (avoiding disease, or because it is important to a loved one) we have most success with any goal when we internalize it and make it our own (I’m really proud of myself for finishing that race!).

Clearly, it’s totally cool to have external rewards for doing healthy habits. But recognize that committment to that external reward may fade. If, when you’re starting a new habit, if you can focus on the internal reasons for doing it, you are far more likely to stick to it.

Okay – so, here’s what you want to do:

  • Internal versus external – When you’re deciding to change your habits, figure out why you want to do it.
  • Number of whys – Come up with a list of reasons you might be likely to do it.
  • Committment level – Then ask yourself, how committed are you to that reason. Make it a scale of 1-100. If you’re not really committed, can you think of other reasons why you might be more likely do do it? If you’re below 70, you might want to rethink if you really want to do this.
  • Write it down – Write down all of your reasons. Read it daily (aloud if you have to).  Add to it as you come up with more reasons.  Remind yourself why you’re doing it.

The writing of your motivators is really important, and here’s why: At some point in your journey, you are going to lack motivation. It’s just not going to be there. You’re going to say ‘Eff it!’ If you have your ‘whys’ written down, you can go to that piece of paper & remind yourself. If you don’t have it written down, you just have to remember. And remembering your whys when you really don’t want to do something is really really difficult.

So, write it down, and pull it out when you need support.


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