What's Your WHY? How to stay motivated for life.

When clients come to me, very often they are stuck in a vicious cycle of starting workout programs or diet programs, hating it, quitting, then months or years later feeling guilty and starting the process all over, only to quit again. The first question I ask them is WHY are you trying to lose weight/ get healthy/ get fit? What I’ve learned from experience (and what a plethora of neuroscience behavioral research confirms) is that WHY someone does something is one of the most important factors in their success.

WHY you are choosing to move and eat well determines whether you are actually going to do it. Some why’s motivate well and some don’t!


With the holidays approaching, parties start filling up our calendar, I can all but guarantee I’m going to have some version of this conversation. I’ll go back for a 2nd piece of pie at the same time my friend does (we will call him Joe). Joe looks at me sheepishly and says something like, “You know, it’s ok to have one more piece because I’m going to join a gym as my New Year’s resolution.” I will likely say something like, “Oh that’s great. What inspired you to join a gym?” His answer probably will have something to do with losing weight or self-improvement. While losing weight or self-improvement may sound like good why’s, they are actually toothless and worthless when it comes to actually making the choice to GO to the gym to use the membership he bought.

PAUSE! Who are you in this story? Are you like Joe? If so, let me throw a couple statistics at you. Eighty percent of people who join a gym on January 1st quit before February 28th . Only 50% of people who have a gym membership go more than 100 times a year. A mere 18% of people with gym memberships would be described as “fit” or “healthy,” and only 1% actually have a 6-pack. Rewind to Joe grabbing another piece of pie on November 24th. He’s not even planning on buying his membership for another 40 days, let alone actually start using it. Obviously gyms are NOT the only way to move your body, but statistics still paint a pretty grim picture for accomplishing your January 1st health goals.

If you’re discouraged at this point, the good news is coming! For most people, loosing weight or self-improvement are rational why’s. They make sense in the part of your brain that makes rational, thought through decisions. Unfortunately, the rational part of our brain is very rarely involved in actual decision-making. If you want something to change in your life, you have to get the limbic or “feeling” part of your brain involved—the part of your brain that gets activated when we say “follow your heart”—that’s where actual, lasting decisions come from. When your why gets your heart involved, you increase your chances of success exponentially.

Here’s what I mean. Think about what you ACTUALLY want in your life—more time with family, adventure, freedom, laughter, fun. Now get more even more specific. For example, I want to be able to get deep into the backcountry where I can see the most breathtaking sights with my husband and one day with my kids and grandkids.

Adam and Hally Hiking Mt. Yale, Colorado in November


For me, on those days that I don’t really feel like moving my body, it’s my WHY that moves me. As a result I have a body I feel confident in. I also know I can go run, play, hike, bike whenever I want without fear of not being in shape and one day when I do have kids, statically/prayerfully speaking I will get to be around for their college graduation and weddings! A healthy body is more like a side effect of going after what I really want, not the prime motivator. It’s SUCH a free way to think and live! What is it that you REALLY want? Why? If your goal has the right WHY behind it, not only are you actually going to show up to the gym on a regular basis, but you’ll probably go buy that membership tomorrow (or start taking classes or running or walking...), not 40 days from now!

  Here are a couple common WHY’S that I’ve seen lead to failure every single time.

1. I want to look good—Fun fact, when you are 75 you will be wrinkly and somewhat saggy no matter how hard you try. You CANNOT accomplish this goal long term no matter what you do! Even if you can accomplish it in the short term, this is a goal that has your worth connected to the way your body looks. No matter how close you get to your goal, there will always be a magazine in the grocery store checkout line with someone on the cover who looks better than you. Your brain will tell you aren’t good enough, and if you get that message long enough, you’ll probably get discouraged and quit.

2. I want to feel good—This “WHY” in itself begs the question of another why. Why do you want to feel good? What does “feeling good” mean? It’s not quantifiable at all to start out with. Plus, what happens when you get a cold (which you will eventually) and you don’t feel good. Even though your conscious brain can rationalize the fact that not feeling good is not your fault—you have a cold—your subconscious will start sending your body messages that you’ve failed. The chances are slim that you get back to your movement regimen after your cold is over.

3. I want to lose weight—again, WHY? What’s actually going to motivate you to do that when it’s not fun or when you’re tired?

Here are some WHY’S that I’ve seen motivate people (including myself) to genuine, lifelong change!

1. I want to be able to see the most beautiful places on earth and the only way to get there is on my own two feet.—If I’m going to raft the Grand Canyon or see mountains unscathed by highways, my feet are the only things that will carry me there. I’m tired today, but I can go for a 30-minute walk anyway.

 . I want to have kids/see my grandkids.—Obviously, we are not in control of all of the factors! But if you want to hedge your bets, move your body and eat well!

3. I want to think clearly, lead well in my business and dream up ideas that will change the planet.—Research shows that people who move and eat well are hands down better thinkers, leaders and dreamers. If you want to make a difference, get moving and eat some carrots.

4. The possibilities are really endless. What’s your WHY?

One of my favorite things to do is to work myself out of a job client by client! Once we figure out their WHY, my clients start choosing movement on their own. They don’t need me to motivate them anymore because they are stoked to move and eat well all on their own. It’s the BEST feeling ever to talk with a client who no longer needs me. My heart just SOARS! Truly!

What’s your WHY? I would LOVE to hear it! Don’t wait until January 1st to get moving. Figure out your WHY and start tomorrow! You’re worth it!

 Can't wait to hear all your inspiring why's!




Hally PaulsonComment