Benefits: Overcome your limiting beliefs by developing a well-defined why — your reason for making a change in your life.
So That You Can: Maintain daily habits that will help you achieve your long-term goals.
If we hope to achieve any long-term goal, we must first give some real consideration to our “why,” the reason we set this goal to begin with. Our why has to be well-defined and persuasive enough to keep us on the right path during difficult times.
We began this discussion in my post, “How to Energize Yourself Before Taking That Leap of Faith.” Now, we’re going to walk through 5 Simple Steps that I successfully used to define my why for developing a daily exercise habit, but I believe these steps can be used to define any why — any reason for making any change in your life.
To find out more about what I mean by your “why,” check out this post --
“Do You Have the Audacity to Define Your ‘Why’?”
#1 Define What You Want Today
What would your life look like today if you had already implemented this change?
Answering this question will give you the motivation to get started. Don’t overthink it, and the answer can be completely superficial. It probably goes without saying, but we all respond to instant gratification. Connecting our why to today will give us a taste of that instant gratification.
Grab a notebook and pen. Seeing your answers in writing, and the synergy of your body taking a physical action while your brain takes a creative action, will embed the answer in your subconscious.
My question: Why do I want to exercise today?
My answer: I want to look good in my bathing suit. Yes this answer is superficial and subjective. My idea of “good” may be unrealistic. But feeding that superficiality just a little bit planted the seeds for a new habit.
This why will only keep you motivated for a week or two, at best. That’s okay; its purpose is to help you establish a new daily habit.
The next thing you will write down is one action you are willing to take every day for the next week.
Write your why and your one action on several sticky notes. Put them on the refrigerator, on the mirror in your bathroom, on the dashboard of your car, on your computer monitor at work. Wherever. Put them where they will literally be right in front of your face several times a day.
Then, after a week, add a second action to the sticky notes; after two weeks, add a third action; and so on, and so on. You will be amazed at the results you will see from making one change at a time.
#2 Define What You Want 6 Months From Now
Move on to this step as soon as you feel the motivation from Step 1 waning. As I mentioned, the motivation from Step 1 will probably last two weeks, at most.
What benefits will you reap in the next 6 months from maintaining the daily habits you’ve been tending? And what results will these habits produce?
My answer: I will have the strength and stamina I need to enjoy day-long hiking trips.
About a year ago, I started utilizing workouts produced by HASfit, which I discuss further in my post “How I Energize Myself to Take My Leap of Faith.” In almost every video, Coach Kozak throws out a reminder to focus on your why to get you through the workout. That’s when I started focusing on hiking.
Hiking is something I love to do because it allows me to challenge myself while unplugging from the noise of life. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to connect with my fellow hikers, who are typically my husband, kids, or close friends. My mental picture of me on the trail is engaging and idealistic.
Next, you’re going to create an engaging, idealistic mental picture of what the results you are going to achieve look like.
Go back to this picture when you start talking yourself out of taking the necessary steps that you’ve listed on your sticky notes. When the couch, or the ice cream, or Instagram, or that one last video on YouTube calls your name, pull up this picture.
Studies show that it can take 21 to 66 days to form a new habit. The why you’ve defined in this step will get you through a couple more weeks, which will put you three to four weeks into the process and within the 21 to 66 day range. Your new habits will be taking root.
Quick side note: At this point, you’re bound to have “messed up” once or twice, since that’s what we humans do. So what do you do when you mess up? You acknowledge that it happened, accept it, forgive yourself, pull up your picture, and start right back up again. We all mess up -- don’t let it stop you!
#3 Tell People About Your New Habits
If you haven’t already, start spreading the word.
What have you committed to doing? How are you doing it? And how have you progressed? This will accomplish 2 things.
First, now that you’ve put your commitment out into the world, you will want to hold yourself accountable for your actions. Not only does this make your commitment feel “real,” it invites a bit of positive peer pressure.
You’ve told people that you are going to do something, so you’ll feel like you better do it. The next time you talk to so-and-so, they might ask about your progress. Although I am all about taking action for ourselves, rather than to meet the expectations of others, a little positive peer pressure never hurts.
Second, you might inspire someone else to take a positive step toward defining and owning their why as well. Not only is it empowering to know you have helped someone else, you may just form your own circle of people to cheer you on, motivate you, and call you out on your bullshit excuses. That will be powerful!
#4 Define What (you think) You Really Want Long-Term
When the alluring calls of the couch, ice cream, Instagram, or YouTube start overpowering your ability to focus on the picture you have painted, you’ll know it’s time to dig a little deeper and ask yourself this question.
How will the new habits you have created positively impact your life a year from now? 5 years from now? 20 years from now? However far out you want to look.
My answer: I will be as fit as possible and will be able to do the things I like to do as I age. I don’t want to have limited mobility or stamina if there’s anything I can do to prevent it.
Get your sticky notes and pen out again, write your answer down, and place your notes where you will see them several times a day. And for fun, you could add your favorite motivational quote to the sticky note too.
Next, you are going to anchor that thought to two pictures in your mind that cause emotional responses. Seriously, close your eyes and picture them. Make them vivid and detailed.
This is different from what we did in step 2 because now we are going to actually feel the emotions that these pictures evoke. Maybe you already did this in step 2. Great! Bear with me, and let’s go through it again, together.
First, picture what your life looks like when you have maintained the habits you have been cultivating, and focus on how you feel in this picture. Then picture what your life looks like when you have broken these habits, and focus on how you feel in that picture.
My first picture. . .I am 70, 80, maybe even older, and I’m having the time of my life with my kids and grandkids. Taking them on hikes. Shooting hoops. Going on bike rides. Walking along a pier on Lake Michigan. Going to concerts (although my mosh pitting days are done). All earning me the title of the Cool Grandma (yes, the term “cool” will be back 30-40 years from now; it’s cyclical.) How do I feel in this picture — elated and alive!
On the flip side, if I break my exercise habits, I picture. . .my kids having to take care of me. Trying to work their already busy lives around my needs. Feeling guilty if they have to put me in a nursing home. Becoming resentful, despite their best efforts not to. Maybe even turning against each other. How do I feel in this picture? Defeated and like I failed my kids.
I think these whys can keep me going for a lifetime because there is nothing more important to me than my kids. And when I consider breaking my exercise habits, I have genuine, emotional responses that won’t let me.
Create your two emotional response pictures, and use them to maintain the success you’ve garnered to this point. Then take a moment to be proud of yourself — you are taking action to reach your desired potential, a feat most people will never even attempt.
Yes, I realize we can’t fully control whether or not these pictures will come to fruition, and we have to accept that. But we can make deliberate choices to increase the odds that the positive one does.
#5 Surprise...We’re Going to Focus on Today Again
At this point, the why will be so ingrained in your subconscious that you won’t have to deliberately think about it any more. You will own it!
I was probably 5 to 6 months into my journey with HASfit and had listened to Coach Kozak pump the words, “focus on your ‘why’” into my head 5 times a week. When suddenly, I realized that I don’t really need to think about my “why” anymore to get started. Sure, it still comes in handy in the middle of a workout sometimes. And, I do remind myself of it from time to time, on the tough days.
But I’ve come back to focusing on how I feel today. I feel strong. Chronic aches and pains that I’ve had for years are gone. I’m sleeping better. I have less anxiety.
Consequently, now that I know how great it feels to work out properly, I actually want to do it. I have become present with my why, and that is pure magic!
Why? Because being present is one key to realizing your full potential. And we’ve just learned how to get there, one action at a time.