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Why the Road to Better Health Has Nothing to Do With Willpower

When it comes to health and wellness, if we shift our focus onto our why, making mindful choices becomes easier because your commitment and motivation comes from a much deeper place.
09/18/2015 05:57pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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You don't need more willpower or discipline. When you know and understand this one thing you do need, reaching for better health becomes much easier.

It's understanding your why.

Like millions of others, I've watched Simon Sinek's Tedx talk on Start With Why. Even though the talk focused on business, when I watched it again recently, I found its core principle focused on something much greater - what keeps us motivated to do what we do. This concept can be used in every aspect of life, including our health and wellness.

Simon's talk discussed the golden circle of human motivation. This circle includes our why, our how and our what for why we do what we do. According to this concept, most of us focus on the what or the how. But if we can figure out our why, we end up with the greater commitments and better results.

Why Knowing Your Why Matters
Broken down, knowing your why is the one thing keeping you inspired and motivated to continue. If you're not clear on your why, it'll take a lot more work to stay motivated. This means you're more likely to get frustrated, discouraged and give up.

Your why is your belief.
Your how are the actions you take to realize that belief.
Your what are the results of those actions.

Clear as mud right? Let me share my story of my health + wellness why with you.

How It Worked For Me
Years ago, I was ridiculously sick. I quickly went from having a measure of health to having zero health and seriously struggling in every sense of the word. It took three long years to get my health back. During that time of struggle, my why became crystal clear. I recognized that to live a life that I love, taking care of my body is non-negotiable for me. How I do this (my how) is be mindful of my food choices and how I take care of myself. My what is to eat (mostly) plant-based foods, get plenty of sleep, sprinkled with lots of rest + play.

By keeping my why front and centre in my vision, it's so much easier to stay on track, or even to step back into a routine, even after a vacation (where most of us struggle).

When You Aren't Clear on Your Why
I recently witnessed something that was so fascinating to me. A good friend ended up in the hospital. For the third time. For the same condition. In less than a year. Each time they were discharged, they vowed to take better care of themselves. They were mindful of what they ate, removed things from their diet they believed weren't good for them, and made sure to get plenty of sleep. Each time they did this they made a great recovery. But when they started to feel like themselves again, they slipped back into their old habits.

Staying up too late, eating based on convenience instead of making health supportive choices and added back their favourite treats on a daily basis. With always the same result. They ended up back in the hospital.

It was interesting to me because it was clear they recognized what would give them good enough health to avoid a hospital stay. But they weren't able to stick with the post hospital regiment they put themselves on.

I asked myself why? I knew they weren't alone. Many of us do this. I did this.

Before my last health scare, every time I'd get sick, I too vowed to take better care of myself. Then when I started to feel better, I chose a life of convenience over making choices that were building my health.

While I was recently reflecting on how great it feels to no longer have that mindset, I asked myself what shifted in me to make my commitment to better health unwavering?

When I did get my health back over 4 years ago, something was different. Unlike the other times, I didn't say 'I'm gonna take care of myself because it's good for me' or 'because I don't want to end up in ER again.'

I decided I was going to do this because I believed that for me to live my best, healthiest life, I needed to pay attention to how I treated my body. Both in the foods I ate, how much I slept and how much rest and play I included in my day. My goal shifted from focusing on an end result (staying out of ER), to something that I pulled from a deeper place (a desire to live my best life).

I believe that's the difference between those who stay on track with their goals versus those who struggle and give up. The source of motivation is different. The ones who stay on track aren't focusing on an end result. They're focused on their why (how they choose to live).

Back to my friend. As they were being discharged this last time, I sat with them and listened to how they were going to take better care of themselves. This time I asked them why. I got a puzzled look, as I expected I would. So I asked 'why is taking better care of yourself important now?' They said 'so I don't end up in the hospital again.' It's a typical answer and one I completely understood. That used to be my focus too.

This time I challenged them to go deeper. I asked 'what does not being in the hospital mean you get to do? and how does your life look as a result?' It turned into the most interesting discussion for me because it was hard for them to come up with some answers. But it was also exciting because I saw they were beginning to think in a different way.

We are so driven by results. (I want to lose 10 pounds. I want to fit back into my favourite pair of jeans.) When we focus on the result, it's hard to stay motivated. It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to give up.

When it comes to health and wellness, if we shift our focus onto our why, making mindful choices becomes easier because your commitment and motivation comes from a much deeper place.

"he who has a why.....can bear any how"

What's your why?