Why finding your 'why' for fitness will help you achieve your goals

One of the FAQs for anyone who exercises regularly is ‘how do you stay motivated?’ – and, almost always, the answer is ‘I don’t.’

As anyone who trains knows that motivation is temporary. That’s true whether you train competitively or for fun. 

Instead, it’s discipline that matters, especially when you’re years into the game and the beginner buzz has worn off. 

But discipline doesn’t come from nowhere; it’s cultivated. And in order to cultivate any real discipline, you need to find your ‘why’. 

For Stef Murray, a personal trainer and mixed martial artist from Manchester, knowing your ‘why’ is ‘crucial’, as it will spell the difference between simply being interested in something and being committed to it. 

The importance of finding your ‘why’

‘For me, understanding your ‘why’ will help you to decide your level of commitment to the process and the inevitable challenges you will face in order to achieve what you want,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.

Psychologist Dr Josephine Perry agrees. In her book The 10 Pillars of Success, ‘purpose’ is one of her key pillars for achieving your goals. 

‘Purpose is made up of three elements; the direction in which it sends us, a need to contribute to the wider world and the ability to behave with consistency,’ she tells us. 

‘It becomes a type of scaffolding [that we can use], so rather than avoiding tricky situations, we approach them with intention.’

She says that people with a strong purpose – or ‘why’ – are known to have above average health, feel some kind of mastery, have higher quality relationships, more resilience and can develop coping mechanisms to combat stress and distress.

‘Knowing our ‘why’ in exercise is important for our motivation as it gives us the power to override all the unhelpful excuses we give ourselves: It is too cold, I am too tired, I will never improve,’ Josephine adds.

‘With a strong ‘why’ we hear the excuses but we still want to exercise, even in spite of them.’

But what exactly is your ‘why’, and how can you find it?

How to find your ‘why’ for exercice

Everyone’s reason for exercising is going to be different but, as Stef notes, it shouldn’t be one-dimensional and should be part of a wider picture of personal development.

Carly Rowena, founder of wellness app Moodment, seconds this and stresses the importance of digging deep while trying to find your own. 

‘A great exercise is to write down the first goal that comes into your head [when you think about your reasons for exercising],’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

The key is not to stop at your first reason.

If your ‘why’ is because you want to get fit for New Year, ask yourself why that is.

If it’s because you want to look good for a particular party, ask yourself why again. 

Maybe it’s so that you can feel confident – but why do you want to feel confident?

Essentially, introspection is key. 

‘Keep asking until you come to your ultimate reason,’ says Carly. 

‘It might take a couple of tries until you are able to be completely honest with yourself.’

How to find your ‘why’

Questions you can ask yo help you find your ‘why’:

  • How do you want to feel? 
  • Who are you doing this for?
  • How can you measure your success?
  • What does this version of you look, feel and act like? 

Thought experiments for finding your ‘why’:

  • Put all your bullet points of what it might be onto one sheet of paper and rewrite and rewrite until they merge and become more compact.
  • Write your own ideal Wikipedia page – what would you want it to say about you.
  • Imagine you are in your rocking chair at 80 – what achievement would you like to be proud of?
  • Look through your phone photos. Is there a theme? What do they tell you about what matters to you?

Carly Rowena and Dr Josephine Perry

It’s important to keep being introspective throughout the years, too.

‘Ultimately as you progress closer to your goals you’ll need to keep assessing in order to make progress,’ says Carly.

‘Just like in life, we all have milestones that are important to us, and the same goes for fitness – you grow with your goals.’

Maybe your ‘why’ when it comes to fitness is something as simple as making new friends or getting out of the house more. You don’t have to be a competitive athlete to commit yourself to a goal. 

But finding your ‘why’ will be the difference between whether or not you eventually achieve that goal.

As Stef says: ‘If you are able to find your ‘why’, something that truly resonates with you to the core, that has multiple layers and goes beyond an interest, I have nothing but confidence in your ability to reach your goals.’

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