Where do you want to go? Have you tried asking why?
I’ve watched a lot of people smash through a lot of awesome goals in the last number of years - I’ve done so myself. I’ve also watched a lot of people give up on a lot of goals without ever getting anywhere on them.
So, what’s the difference? What makes one person reach them and another, quit?
I think it comes down to two vital things:
1. Being realistic about your current reality and willing to start there
2. Having a big enough why and keeping your focus more on that than the actual goals you think you want
I fully believe humans are capable of astounding things. When we want something badly enough, there's almost nothing we won't do to get it. But most people spend all their time ignoring their current reality (the things about themselves and their lives that are holding them back) and obsessing over whats: what they think they want and don't want.
And they do so while ignoring the thing that gives us all of our power - our WHY.
Success is in your why and recognizing the things that are getting in your way so you can move them.
When I started asking, and more importantly living from WHY everything got easier. Why do I want that thing and as a follow-up question, why don't I already have it?
The follow-up helps me understand more about the how because it helps me plot a course for getting there not based on what I think I should do but based on the ways I need to learn and grow to become someone who is aligned with living the reality I do want.
When we have a why that gets us up in the morning, things like excuses and quitting aren’t even options that exist in our vocabulary. We just follow our why because it’s being driven from a place deeply connected to who we are and what we value most in life rather than external measures of achievement that society tells us we’re supposed to want.
It helps you connect with your deepest core desire and gives you the awareness necessary to stop standing in your own way.
For example, “chasing weight loss goals” because you'd like to fit into a certain size, or see a certain number on the scale when you're an emotional or binge eater is an example of not having a big enough why and not starting from a place that's realistic based on where you currently are - and yet it’s what almost everyone does which helps explain why so many people struggle with “weight loss goals”.
Almost everyone sets weight loss goals because of the way they think seeing that number or being in a smaller body will make them feel. And almost everyone engages in some level of mindless or emotional eating at least sometimes.
And it keeps them stuck in the cycle of getting on and off the scale, wanting an arbitrary number to change so you'll finally feel like you have permission to be happy or feel good about yourself and your body - and continually caving or quitting on your attempts to change it every time you get triggered by uncomfortable emotions (which often happens multiple times per day).
That's a recipe for being unhappy and feeling hopeless to change for obvious reasons.
Even if health is the reason we think we want to lose weight, when are we going to stop treating our mental and physical health like they’re achievements or life levels to unlock? Human wellness is not measured by how many pounds we lose or goals we can reach.
It’s the ever-changing individual conditions that determine how we experience life from inside our bodies - and our minds.
Approaching our lives from the standpoint of digging into the deeper WHY behind all the things we think we want changes everything.
WHY has chasing weight loss become a central focus of your life (if you’re like I was and it has)? Why does that number matter?
It matters because we learn to associate some feeling with that number. We want to feel healthier. We want to stop hating the reflection staring back at us in the mirror every morning. We want to feel good about ourselves.
Or whatever the case may be.
We obsess over the what (the thing we think we need to achieve to feel that way) and chase it by doing things that keep pulling us farther away from our core desires - eg. trying to force ourselves to follow other people’s rules about what we should or shouldn’t be doing for our bodies (while ignoring the wisdom of our own bodies), setting unrealistic goals and expectations and beating on ourselves the entire time when we judge ourselves as continually to fail.
You become so focused on the number you think you want that you make yourself miserable and moving ever farther away from the feeling.
If we go back to the example I just gave, and apply my WHY theory, everything changes. We’re instantly empowered in THIS moment to live every moment in a way that aligns with what matters most to us and makes us feel the best rather than waiting until we get to that goal to feel it.
When we apply the WHY method to “chasing weight loss goals”:
You think: I hate my body and want to lose weight.
You before, when focused on the what: I have to start dieting. (Cue the instant feelings of dread and scarcity that creates overeating, binge eating and/or self-punishing behaviors and non-stop obsessions over what you think you should or shouldn’t eat to accomplish that goal)
You now, applying the why theory instead: Why do hate my body and want to lose weight? Because I feel terrible and want to feel better. Why? Because I want to be healthy, happy and feel good about myself (that’s the core desire) and I believe weight loss will make me feel that way.
Then ask: Why am I not already experiencing those things now? Because I eat mindlessly, or to feed emotions in ways that caused weight gain and when I gain weight, I feel like a failure. I feel like I’m less worthy and I make choices that are self-punishing and make me feel even worse when I feel that way.
The second part, starting where you are, is just as vital as connecting with the big enough why. If you put a destination into google maps and expected it to map out your route without knowing the address you were starting at, you wouldn’t get very far.
But that's what so many of us try to do. They try to ignore their current reality, hoping if they pretend it doesn't exist they can willpower their way to changing it.
If you're so exhausted all the time that you don't even have the energy to walk to the end of the driveway or spend a few minutes a day doing some light stretching, it's unrealistic to expect you'll suddenly have the energy for that new workout program you keep promising yourself you're going to start. Start where you are. Why are you so exhausted? Why are you not already doing at least a little movement? Based on your answers, start slowly building momentum from there instead of starting that new insanity workout that you're never going to have the energy to keep up with.
If you're an emotional or binge eater, restricting food to try to lose weight will fail over and over and over again until you work on changing those things. You cannot ignore that reality and expect to be happy or for any kind of change to last. You have to start where you are and change those things.
Start where you are.
Then, go back to your core desires, the things we actually want (feeling healthy, happy and good about ourselves) and THIS is when you can ask a couple of what questions:
What one thing can I do today to make me feel that way or that will at least move me closer to feeling that way? (Eg. ask your body what it needs and bring awareness to whatever thoughts are present for you. Are they helping or harming? If the latter, how can you change them?)
What do I need to do, change or learn for this not to be the way I experience life anymore? (eg. If you’re an emotional or binge eater, learn to change the conditioning you’ve developed that have created those coping strategies. Ask, how can I start practicing to better manage my emotions today? Or what can I do to start valuing myself more so I don't feel the need to self-punish through bingeing?)
Can you see how powerful that switch is?
My own whys have been deeply connected for me from the beginning. Personally, I decided I was not put here to live at war with myself, my body and food. It took some time to figure out how my reality was causing that war so that I could change actually it. For example for me, all the years I worked on weight loss didn't change it. It was only when I did what I'm describing today that I changed it.
I took a step back and realized that the weight obsessions were merely external superficialities that I had learned to believe were the answer to getting what I wanted. I realized that if I ever actually wanted to stop the war so I could just be happy and at peace with myself and my body, I had to change the things going on IN me that were causing the war.
It’s like there’s been this constant nagging, a calling from deep within me to just love, accept and be at peace with myself. Before I knew better, I thought weight loss was the answer to those things.
Now I know it's about finding that place within me that just IS peace and so I’m driven to just keep uncovering and changing the things that keep me from it, knowing that with every new layer I uncover, every new level of growth, I get closer and closer... life gets easier, and things just keep improving.
Professionally my why is also driven by a similar calling from deep within. A client once said to me, “thank you for the pain you endured to save a soul like me” and I welled up with tears and never forgot that line because that sums it all up for me. I need to feel like I’m giving others what I never got. I need to feel like the suffering I’ve lived through has some sense of purpose and if I can use it to help pull others out of the darkness I lived, if I can use it to have some positive impact in the world, it will have had a purpose greater than me.
I don’t even set goals anymore. I wake up every day with one intention: to live from those core values - creating the life I want, serving in ways that help others do the same and asking one question: What do I need to do and/or learn today to move me closer to those things?
I can't even express the level of peace that's come from that one switch alone.
Is there a constant nagging somewhere in you that feels like it’s trying to tell you something but you’re not sure what? Is there someplace inside you that whispers, “you’re meant for more than this”?
Listen to those whispers.
Whether you set still goals or begin approaching life from more of a "being" place than an "achieving" like I have, try using this why approach instead of focusing on the whats.
Connect deeply with something that drives you from your heart and soul, heal the parts of you that are keeping you from already having it and you’ll never quit anything again because it will be deeply aligned with your unique core value and desires.
If you’re thinking, I don’t even know what I want, that’s an example of an obstacle and why starting where you are is so vital. If that’s your current reality, that’s where you have to start.
Get to know yourself so you can figure it out.
Figure out where you are, WHY you even want to go where you’re headed and if that why is big enough that you’re willing to undertake the (probably) long, arduous journey. Then, plot a route and ideally find a tour guide to help so you don’t have to go it alone.
If getting past the weight and food struggle so you can rebuild a loving, trusting relationship with yourself and food and learn to feel at home in your body again is one of your deepest whys, I created the cognitive eating academy to help provide your most direct route by helping you uncover all your whys.