If I conducted a poll out on the streets of Tallahassee and asked folks how to live healthy lives, I’ll bet everyone would know the correct answers. Eating healthy food, watching portion sizes, exercising regularly, and managing stress top the to-do list for a healthy life. We all know it. The mechanics of healthy living are simple! But of course, we also know that simple is not necessarily easy.
Let’s imagine a follow-up question to my poll: why? We know the how, even if we don’t do it, but what would be your answer to why? I’d predict a much wider range of answers to that question, varying from practical to personal, and each one would be a little unique, because the why is something that has to click within us.
The why, of course, is your motivation. Many people have a goal hidden somewhere to get healthier, and those who pursue it do because they decide the benefit outweighs the hassle. When push comes to shove, there is an internal dialogue that convinces them to lace up and get out there. There is a mental switch that flips and moves their hand away from the chips and towards the bottle of water. Something speaks up and makes it easier to turn down the second helping. That thing is the answer to their question, “why?”
The answer is different for everyone, but there are some definite trends. A longer lifespan to enjoy grandchildren, improving mobility for an active retirement, getting off of expensive medications or avoiding surgery, and increasing energy are some of the motivations I hear often as a wellness coach. And, if your motivation is to fit into your jeans and feel better when you look back at pictures from vacation, that’s okay too. The more motivation you can get, the better!
For me, the why comes in a combination of practicality and self-preservation. I have a busy day and know from experience that if I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, I will run out of time and energy for it later on. It just won’t happen. When I eat healthfully and plan my meals, I feel my best. When I feel my best, stuff gets done. But when I skip it, I am grumpy and disorganized. Adhering to my routine also helps me manage my weight. This is important to me because I’ve been overweight before and remember how uncomfortable, tired, and frustrated I was. I worked hard to lose weight, and I don’t want to do it again. When that alarm goes off in the morning or it is time to organize my meals for the next day, it is not a matter of how I will get out of bed or pack my lunch. It is simply reminding myself why. Sometimes I have to remind myself more than once, so those reasons need to be powerful enough to move me.
That is the key! The reasons why must be powerful enough to move you. There are plenty of perfectly logical reasons to eat healthy and exercise, but there may only be one or two that actually inspire you to get up and do something. Luckily, that’s all you need! So, how do you figure out what it is?
The next time you are standing at a crossroads for your health, listen to the internal dialogue that takes place when you negotiate with yourself. Take a step back from yourself and be the observer of your thoughts. Watch as your different priorities have their debate and pay attention to which one wins. When it does, make note of the prevailing reason. There you have it: your true motivation.
If the healthy choice was the winner, hooray! You are connected to a strong motivator (or have experienced the consequences enough times to know what’s best for you). If other interests prevailed, be honest with yourself about why. There are times when other priorities take precedence over fitness. Sometimes we don’t take action because the goal has actually been set for us by someone else, and we resent it. It’s important to know these things, because that awareness can relieve you from feeling like a failure for reaching a goal you didn’t even set. Instead, negotiate new terms to make the goal something you care about.
The truth is, sometimes we are not motivated to change until things have gotten so bad that the pain of change is not as bad as the pain of staying the same. Sometimes we are more motivated by avoiding unsavory consequences than by the promise of things being better. That is all okay! Your motivation isn’t up for judgment or evaluation. No one else even has to know what it is.
Connect with your why this week. Put a picture of it on the fridge. Write it on your shoes. Tape it to your computer screen. Make it the ring tone on your phone. Do whatever it takes to stay connected to it. Because once you are connected with the why, the how becomes obvious.
So, what’s your why?