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The Why Factor

Ever wonder how some people are able to continuously stay motivated?  Why some individuals are able to crush their goals week after week, while others struggle to maintain a goal for more than a couple of days?  Well it’s not because they have enormous willpower.  It isn’t because they work harder at their goals or are better planners. 

It may be because they know why they are setting their goals.  They are able to see the connection their goals have to their life.  Studies have shown that people who are deeply connected to their goals and do things they enjoy tend to keep at it longer, hence the ability to complete their goals.  Those who do not enjoy the tasks they have to do or do not connect to the benefit behind their goals tend to abandon them early on.  It appears the magic lies in the why behind the action. 

Why Find the Why Factor

Finding things that are personally rewarding is important because it fuels the motivation to continue.  When the motivation comes from doing something simply because it is desired, doing the activity is usually easier to accomplish.  The behavior itself is the reward.  There is no trophy or ribbon that needs to appear at the end (although there is nothing wrong with getting one) because the motivation is a feeling, not something tangible.  You do it because you enjoy it and it’s satisfying.  You ride your bike because you enjoy the scenery, not because someone told you it’s a calorie burner.  You make time for sleep because you appreciate waking up refreshed instead of doing it because a good night’s sleep is the social standard.  You do the things you like and enjoy because you have designated them as positives, not because someone else has deemed them the “right thing to do”.

Intrinsic motivation is key to lifelong changes.  Doing something because you want to do it instead of having to is easier to accomplish day in and day out.  That inner spark fuels the process.  It is not a burden to complete the task.  Doing things for fun or enjoyment makes everything easier to nail down.

Finding that intrinsic motivation is not without its challenges.  Weeding out exactly which tasks are due to intrinsic joy as opposed to societal pressure is not always clear.  It takes the ability to ask “why am I doing this?” to really figure out where the motivation is coming from.  For example, are you trying to lose weight because you’ve been told you need to, or because you feel uncomfortable with the way you feel at your current weight?  The first is brought on by others and their opinions of what should be done.  The latter is connected to your intrinsic motivation and personal satisfaction (losing weight in order to feel better rather than pleasing others).  Therefore, finding exactly what you want to do (and how) can make it stick. 

That “why” factor is powerful because the habit stems from something you truly want to do instead of coming from shame, bullying, or even fear others have bestowed on you.  Motivate yourself, empower yourself to do something because you truly want it, and not because someone believed you need to be a certain weight in order to achieve greatness.  Once you have the “why” figured out you can use that as your north star throughout your journey.  Let that lead you to your true wants and therefore long-term goals.  Apply the “why” whenever things get hard or tough.  Challenges will come — they always do, and by making sure the “why” is deeply rooted in your psyche, you will be better equipped to deal with it.  It will be much easier to stay the course and see to it that your goal is achieved by keeping in mind why you want to do it. 

How to Use Your Why Factor

Keep your “why” somewhere you can see it.  Tape it to the door, jot it down in a notebook, save it on your phone – whatever needs to be done in order to remember it.  Seeing it can remind you that you are trying to stop smoking because you want to save money for a trip, or you want to eat more nutritious foods so you can cease your medications.  Keeping your why factor handy is one way to make sure you connect your “why” to your goals.  

Additionally, focus on what makes you content.  If you hate running but love swimming, guess what? Spend your time swimming.  Leave running to someone who enjoys it.  Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like, because chances are you will get discouraged and move on before completing your goals.   

If you find yourself losing your motivation, take a closer look at what you are doing to reach your goals.  Perhaps your goal to meditate ten minutes every day isn’t working because you lack dedication, but merely that you do not find it enjoyable and therefore fail to find the time to do it.  Ask yourself why you are doing it and brainstorm ways to reach your goal that may look a little different. Meditation may not be the key to your relaxation technique but a quiet walk may do the trick instead. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which goals are meant for you and how to accomplish them.  You hold the power to create your own game plan.  You have the ability to shape your day to day how you see fit.  Finding the why behind change can help make those changes sustainable long term.

– Progress, Not Perfection –


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