Your Most Important Health Question: What’s Your Why?

Good health is a tricky little bugger. For me, I know I want to keep my health in good standing. Yet, sometimes the ambiguity of it makes it hard to make the right decisions in the moment. And I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this, especially in these times of uncertainty!

Sometimes, good health is about trading in “quick wins” for long term success.

A lot of the healthy decisions we make on a daily basis don’t have an immediate effect on our state of being, making hard to keep motivated. Plus, a lot of times we force ourselves to do certain things for the sake of our health, which totally ends up backfiring at some point.

While living a high quality of life take some form of dedication, it doesn’t need to be so hard! The ability to set and work toward goals in your life (health or otherwise) is significantly easier when you figure out exactly what’s driving your decisions.

This is why there is one single most important question that will help direct all the actions, behaviors, and decisions you make in your life: What’s your why? This question has been trending for the past decade, and for good reason…

what's your why?
Figure out what brings you joy, and follow it!

What’s Your Why?

This question is meant to illicit deep self-reflection regarding the way you are choosing to live your life. There are probably certain things that you currently do or want to do in your life, and we want to get to the bottom of the why. What exactly is driving those actions (past, current, and future influences)?

When you stop to think about how this simple question relates to your daily actions, it should fill you with a sense of direction and purpose. On the other hand, if you ask yourself why and realize you are making decisions that have no purpose in your life and are a result of past programming, you may realize it’s time for some big changes. Either way, this type of self-reflection takes time (and courage!) as you build awareness of your behavior patterns and actions.

what's you why:  dot just go through the motions
Don’t get stuck spinning in circles that you didn’t intend to create.

Don’t just go through the motions.

I’ve been working hard on a resource (of the book sort) to help people take control of their health through consistent healthy habits. I want to share an example from it that will help explain the importance of figuring out what your “why” is…

Do you know those people that are making a genuine effort to be healthier?  Maybe you’re one of them (I know I have been).  I want to take a minute to tell you about my friend and past client Mary (I changed her name for this guide). 

Mary dedicates a few days a week to Anytime Fitness even though she hates going there.  But she told herself that she “must do it” because it’s important for her health.  Meanwhile, she feels exhausted.  Her exercise program brings her no joy, so she half-asses her way through a cardio workout on the treadmill while she switches between watching a re-run of Jeopardy and the 6 o’clock news.  When she gets home from work or the gym, she is craving a good dose of something (anything!) that makes her feel good. 

Mary is completely unaware of the underlying triggers and habits that are working against her. So, when she’s finally home she turns to three of her favorite vices: an entire bag of Doritos, picking a fight with her husband about the dishes that need to be done, and binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix.  Meanwhile, she feels completely and utterly stuck.  She keeps asking herself, “What is missing? I’m trying to be healthy. I’m going to the gym regularly and I have some fresh vegetables sitting in my fridge. What else can I do?”

And if she’s feeling guilty enough. She might occasionally get in a week’s worth of intense workouts and manage to restrict her junk food eating habits for a few days. Until she’s suddenly back to square one and feeling miserable again.

She thinks health is her priority.  Yet, deep down she knows something is off.  Sometimes it’s obvious to her when she notices another few pounds around her mid-section each year or her blood work shows that she’s pre-diabetic, while other times it’s more subtle with issues like less energy for activities that she used to love to do.

While this might not be your exact story, I have worked with many women that have almost the same exact story.  So chances are that at least some of this story sounds familiar and rings true with you.  My story was pretty much the same a decade ago, except my vices were Gossip Girl on Netflix and an entire pint of ice cream. So what does it take to truly make health a priority?  It takes some deep reflection and tuning into the body and mind.  We all thrive in different ways, so the cultural expectation that we all just need to “exercise more and eat less and then we’ll all be healthy” is ridiculous.  Instead, having a plan, finding ways to bring joy to your life (that also brings health), and many other techniques that we will learn in this guide are the key to truly making health a priority. 

Stop Feeling Stuck

Many of us can feel stuck in a cycle of deja vu and frustration. This perpetuating cycle is all too familiar:

  1. Get fired up and motivated to take action because “enough is enough” with [insert bad habit here].
  2. Follow an “all or nothing” health program that requires massive action and feels great for the first few days or even weeks.
  3. End up feeling totally overwhelmed and say “eff it” when life inevitably makes it hard to stay on track.
  4. Go back to old habits and feel guilty that you failed yet again.
  5. Begin again at step one.

It’s an ugly cycle that many of us can’t seem to escape (I know, I’ve been there over and over again over the past 10 years up until 2 years ago).

The solution?

  • Tiny steps in the right direction
  • Having grace to realize that health isn’t about perfection
  • Figuring out what your why truly is

Some of the reasons you might be feeling stuck.

Here are some common elements that may be derailing your ability to stay on track with your health goals:

what's your why: self-reflection
Time for some deep self-reflection as you explore your “why”

Ways to Process What You Truly Need

For Mary in our story above, we worked together extensively to figure out what was driving her decision to go the gym everyday (and then binge eat when she gets home). This helped her quickly gain clarity into the bigger issues that were making her feels tuck. She realized she was operating out of expectations rather than what she would actually enjoy from her life.

As she reflected (on her own and in conversation with me), she remembered that in her teenage years she loved to be outside with the sunshine on her face. This lead to an “a-ha” moment when she realized she could trade her soul-sucking treadmill sessions (her words, not mine) for a walk out in nature. Heck, she even got her husband on board from some more quality time with him.

She started to recognize what truly motivated her to be healthy: having more energy for activities she loves to do. These included spending time with her husband, reading sci-fi novels, cooking and having a small garden. All of a sudden, Mary totally got why she was struggling with her schedule and quickly made shifts in her day to optimize her energy levels and overall life satisfaction.

Although it took some humility and realization of some hard truths, Mary could feel that this time would be different! And it has been different. This was the start of the exact process that Mary went through to lose 20 lbs and kick her “pre-diabetic” numbers to the curb. But most importantly, Mary now has that spark back in her life that she felt she had been missing for several years.

There are many ways to start digging deep into reflection like Mary. These include:

  • Quiet thinking time, especially in the morning first thing or right before bed (when we’re most open to abstract thinking)
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Journaling (guided or free hand)
  • Visualizations
  • Deep conversations with trusted friends or family
  • Time spent doing an activity that inspires you (nature time, arts and crafts, volunteering, an extra few minutes in the shower, a drive, etc.)
what's your why: self-reflection in nature
Self-reflection can come in many forms: pick a way that you’re comfortable with.

Take the guess work out of your health decisions.

Choices are easy to make when they’re in alignment with your why. Figure out this one simple question and the pieces can start falling into place:

I want to ________, so that I can ________.

Stop feeling overwhelmed and start making choices that are in alignment with what you truly want. And that first step starts with that one question.

I’d love to hear from you!

What is your favorite form of reflection? Are you already doing something regular to assess your “why”? I’d love to hear. Personally, I enjoy chatting with my husband and reflecting while out for a walk. I also seem to get great clarity in those last few minutes in the shower, there’s something magical there 🙂

I’d love to hear your comments and questions regarding this week’s article. If you enjoyed this article, we will be digging deeper all month into ways to make real sustainable progress with your health and build healthy habits that stick.

Next, we will be looking into the how. Because like famous personal development author Simon Sinek shares: “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”

Plus, stay tuned for the release later this month of the Consistent Healthy Habits book as well!

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