Last week I met a young man who wants to become an officer in the British military.
We were meeting because officer selection requires a pretty rigorous fitness test.
When I quizzed him about the tests, how many press ups he’d have to complete in two minutes and how fast he’d have to complete the 1.5-mile run, he answered with a steely glint in his eye and utter confidence. I liked him.
It wasn’t arrogance. It wasn’t: ‘Hey, 1.5-miles in 10mins 30secs is easy, right?’ It was an assuredness. It was a knowledge that however hard it was going to be, he was going to do everything possible to achieve it. Whatever I asked of him, he’d do it, because he knew why he was doing it.
When it comes to fitness, fat loss or a particular physical challenge, ‘why’ is important. All my most successful clients have had great ‘whys’.
Often we talk of ‘goals’. But goals are vague. They’re ‘whys’ with the emotion stripped out. Goals are feathers that tickle your fancy after a glass of wine, or when talking tough with your friends. ‘Whys’ are bouncers who kick you down the stairs and out the door. ‘Why’ makes you front up.
‘I want to look good in a bikini.’ Meh. Who doesn’t?
‘I don’t like my bingo wings/muffin tops/moobs/turkey wattle.’ Don’t like? I don’t like brussel sprouts. I can live with a don’t like.
‘Well, erm, I just want to be a bit fitter, ‘cos it’s better for you, right?’ Which loosely translates to, ‘I’m aware I should look after my body with good food and plenty of aerobic and resistance-based exercise because it massively decreases my chance of suffering a myriad of complications in later life ranging from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression to life-limiting diseases such as osteoporosis and diabetes, as well as life-shortening conditions like cancer and heart disease… but I don’t really have any belief that I’ll suffer any of these complications because where I’m sitting right now – on the sofa, stuffing my face with crisps while watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ on television – I feel just fine thanks.’
These ‘whys’ simply aren’t meaty enough to feed sustained motivation, fuel repeated action or change our daily habits.
Your ‘why’ has to be strong enough to pull you out of bed on a cold dark morning for a run, or drag your tired body to the gym after a long day at work. It must have the strength to stay your hand as it reaches for the chocolate; steel your mind against the call of an early morning croissant and a double choccawoccafriccalatte coffee with a dash of hazelnut syrup.
Henry Cloud said that we change ‘when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing’. I think this focuses on the negative. I think change happens when the desire to change becomes greater than the ease of staying the same. And that desire can be fuelled by both pain and pleasure.
A desire to have children via IVF. The pain of an osteoarthritic hip. A desire to win. The pain of not feeling good enough, sexy enough or strong enough. The desire to feel good about yourself for a change. The pain of failure and of unfulfilled potential. A desire to achieve something out of the ordinary, to prove something to yourself and others. One of my clients was driven by the memory of her brothers laughing when she said she’d like to try running a half marathon. She ran it with them; she beat them.
At the Movement Clinic, we can take care of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’; we can even help set ‘goals’. But at then end of the day, the ‘why’ is yours and yours alone.
PS: We might be able to help with the ‘why’ after all. The Movement Clinic has secured generous sponsorship from Henley’s Legion Trade Finance to put together a team of four to take on a four-day, 102-mile running challenge in June 2015. All entry fees (worth £300) will be paid for as well as full training, running technique workshops, guided long runs, navigation training and lots of other goodies. If you’re interested in taking part, get in touch now and hit reply.
If you know someone who might be interested, please feel free to point them this way!