This article is written based upon the premise that you’re someone who has already made the decision to improve your health and fitness. The fact you’re here now reading these words suggests you are.
So, you’ve decided to either start, or continue taking your health and fitness more seriously.
The chances are you’ve set yourself some goals (I hope) and have began enthusiastically working towards those goals.
But, have you ever stopped to consider ‘why’ you want to achieve those goals?
Perhaps you’re thinking, “I just want to lose weight” – the most popular heath and fitness goal, and one I hear a lot as a personal trainer and coach.
Now there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with that as a goal, but it can be a rather vague and dispassionate goal. And you know what happens when you set goals you aren’t truly invested and excited about, right?
Without any emotional investment or excitement behind your goal, the chances are you’ll go off track much more easily, have more frequent drops in motivation and lose the battle of willpower as you reach for the tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
Starting your health & fitness programme without a strong ‘why’ reduces your chances of achieving your goals. You didn’t start your journey with the correct thought process and a clear, tangible target in mind.
Fear not though as – with a little bit of work – it’s a straight forward fix. In this article we’ll explain exactly how to find your ‘why’ to increase your motivation, commitment and dedication. This will greatly increase your chances of successfully achieving your desired goal.
Setting The Perfect Target
So, let’s open this discussion with the popular but vague goal: “I want to lose weight”.
Now a common thought or goal setting process here may be to randomly choose an arbitrary number of weight to lose, say 10lbs, and setting a time limit to achieving it, such as 8-12 weeks.
You then may just call it a day on your goal setting exercise and pat yourself on the back for setting a measurable goal.
However, being honest, that goal is probably not going to motivate you to get out of bed to train when every fibre of your being is screaming at you to hit the snooze button.
No, I’m afraid there’s a far more pressing question you need to be asking yourself before you get into the specifics of a goal you aren’t truly passionate about.
>> Why? <<
Why do you feel like you need to lose weight? Why is this important to you?
Do you have an event or competition looming? Or do you simply want to fit into your favourite pair of jeans and feel more confident in your physical appearance?
For most of our clients, their ‘why’ would be something similar to the latter.
So we’ve made some progress:
“I want to lose weight” has become “I want to lose weight because I want to fit into my favourite dress/suit which will help me feel more confident in my physical appearance”.
We now have an emotional reason attached to the goal of losing weight (which is very important) which will increase your motivation and chances of success.
Could we get even more specific though? We certainly can, by asking two more exploration questions:
How would you feel if you reached that goal?
Why would you feel that way?
This can be a difficult conversation to have with someone else or even yourself, but if you’re truly going to become emotionally attached to attaining your goal, it’s vital to have it.
I, for example, have had clients evolve from a simple “I’d like to lose weight” all the way to:
“I want to get back into the dress I wore on my honeymoon, my husband always loved me in that dress, and would comment whenever I wore it.
Truth be told I’ve felt like since I’ve added some weight I’ve felt tired and less attractive to him. I know it isn’t true, or I’d like to believe it isn’t, but I still know if I can train, and eat well, and fit back into that pretty dress… I just know the look on his face will make me feel like we’re on our honeymoon again.
And more than that, I’ll feel like me again. It’s not about impressing him, even though I want him to look at me like he used to. I want to do this because I’m tired of feeling ashamed of my appearance. I want my confidence back to speak up at work, and I know if I can tackle this fat loss target, that I can get that back.”
I fully appreciate this goal is unique to this person and may be very different to your own, but you can use it as an example of the depth to go into when exploring your own goal.
There’s a lot of emotion behind why she’s making the effort to improve to her physical appearance by beginning an exercise programme and changing her eating habits.
That emotional reason may have always been at the back of her mind, but if she hadn’t vocalised and accepted her underlying emotional targets, she may have just have just accepted she “just wanted to lose weight” and would have never really registered the importance of this goal.
Do you think she’ll be able to find the motivation to climb out of bed on a rainy and cold morning to get to her training session? Or will she be able to find the motivation to prepare her lunches ahead of time to avoid unhealthy snacking?
People act based on emotion. Use that emotional driving power er to self-motivate and inspire yourself, instead of telling yourself it’s too hard, or you ‘don’t really want it badly enough’.
Now, Make It Tangible
Okay, so after completing the exercise above, you’re emotionally invested in your goal. You understand your why.
Now you can get into the specifics.
For the most part, any kind of straight ‘weight loss’ is a poor barometer of progress. Various body composition changes such as muscle growth or fluid retention make it an unreliable indication of change.
Body fat percentage, girth measurements, clothing sizes, energy levels/mood and strength are all far more reliable indicators of change when deciding on how to record your results.
Let’s use “I want to fit into my old 32 inch jeans” goal (girth measurement) as an example. You’ve got a goal and you will have of course identified the emotional reason why this is important to you.
So, the target is measurable (waist size), but let’s say you’re starting a considerable distance away from that at a 40-inch waist.
Do you think your only focus should be on getting down to the 32 inch measurement, and all other landmarks in between are neglected?
Of course not. It’s going to take time to lose those 8 inches, and going all that time without recognising and rewarding other achievements along the way would be highly demoralising, even with your powerful emotional ‘why’.
So, take your big goal and split it into smaller, amenable chunks. You could do this on your own or with the help of a friend, family member or personal trainer, for example.
Put a reasonable time frame on the first landmark – let’s say getting to a 38 inch waist.
Once you reach your first marker, appreciate it.
All too often, people, even with powerful reasons for wanting to achieve their goal, become disenchanted with the process because not once during their journey do they stop smell the roses.
Every single landmark, however small, should be acknowledged and appreciated. Stop and reflect on how your achievement is going to bring you closer to the feeling you’ll have upon completing your overall goal.
People change, lives evolve, and goals too can shift as you mature. You might remember in your early 20’s your main motivation was to attract a partner.
In your mid 40’s it’s likely your goal has motivation and focus has shifted towards your marriage, kids, mortgage and career.
Your goal will have more than likely (I would hope) have changed as you’ve matured and grown into new roles.
Maybe now your ‘why’ is so you can see your children grow up, so you can remain alert and active in an evolving work environment, or to keep the romance going with the other half.
I can’t tell you what your ‘why’ is.
But I can tell you that it’s something you can’t neglect, or ignore when pursuing any goal. In this case we’re speaking about health and fitness, but truthfully the same process can be applied to any goal.
So sit down and ask yourself: what do you want, why do you want it, and are you doing everything in your power to get there?