Goal Setting: ‘What?’ Versus ‘Why?’

Recently I went on a skiing holiday in Japan. It was an amazing experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. I found myself stopping on multiple occasions, simply to pause and appreciate my situation. In those brief moments, I was thankful to be able to do the things I love. To travel, to ski, to enjoy my holiday, without my health being a barrier to enjoying life.

After I returned and got back into the swing of my usual routine, I got to thinking about how different people classify their health differently. For example, some people correlate their health directly with their weight or body fat. Others determine their health based on injuries or illness. This different approach to “health” is a reason for different health goals when it comes to exercise. Some of the most common goals I see day to day are to lose weight, reduce (or eliminate) the need for medication for high blood pressure or diabetes, or to become fitter and stronger.

I rarely see goals focussed upon quality of life, improving daily functionality or simply to be able to live life to the fullest, rather than one’s life being dictated by poor health. These may seem like very subjective goals that are hard to measure, but the difference between the “lose weight” goals and the “improve quality of life” goals is that one is an OUTCOME and the other is a REASON.

Losing weight, reducing medication, increasing fitness and becoming stronger are all OUTCOMES of changing your lifestyle. They aren’t the REASON why you began in the first place. The real reasons are discovered after you dig a little deeper into those initial outcomes. For example, if you exercise to become fitter and lose weight, ask yourself “why?” Why do you want to lose weight and get fitter? Is it because you would like to fit into a smaller size of clothing? Is it because you need to keep up with the children or grandchildren? Is it because you need to get rid of your diabetes medication? Is it because you want to go skiing or play sport, the way you did when you were younger?

Whatever the reason is, you now have a little better understanding of the underlying reasons to WHY you want to change your lifestyle, not just the OUTCOMES, if you are successful.

Ask yourself “why” you want to achieve your health goals. Why do you want to fit into a smaller size of clothes? Why do you want to keep up with the children or grandchildren? Why do you want to get rid of your diabetes medication? Why do I want to go skiing?

All of a sudden we have some rather tough questions to answer. Sometimes it’s hard to divulge personal information to your Practitioner, but as long as you can answer those questions intrinsically, then you start to find some really motivating goals.

The goals shift from “lose weight and get fitter,” to reasons such as, “I’m sick of always feeling tired and weak,” or, “I want to live long enough to see my grandkids grow up,” or, “I hate not being able to do the things I want to do in life because of my health.”

THESE are your true goals. These are the goals that will get you up and out of bed early, on those dark, cold, rainy days for a dawn session in the gym. These are the goals that make you turn around and head back out the door for a run or walk after a really bad day at work – when all you want to do is curl up on the couch.

These are the goals that—when the going gets tough—actually tap into the real reason for WHY you want to improve your lifestyle and keep on track to achieving your goals. The weight loss, fitness gain, or reduction in medication all will occur as a result of this change. The things that will spur you on when you hit a weight loss plateau, or when you are sore from training, and don’t want to come into the gym are these reasons “why.”

So take the time to reassess your goals this year. Dig a little deeper and keep asking yourself “why?” Get to the root of your reasons, and you will find unlimited motivation.

For me, my “why” is that I’m happiest when I’m being active and athletic, such as skiing or playing soccer. My goal is that I will do this for the rest of my life. I will not let poor health be the limiting factor of my happiness.

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