Updated: Jul 30, 2021
Inspired by Jean Luc and Nick’s “why” video they shared on Connect and IG!
The only thing I liked more than the northern Ontario hiking pics were the great tips on finding your “why”.
Of all the stuff I write about, I write about “why” the least. Probably because I think it’s an intensely personal topic. Not from the standpoint of keeping it private, but that it’s so individual and unique that’s it’s hard to pin down usable advice (it’s why I was inspired by their video so much. As good an attempt as I’ve seen). Usually someone’s personal experience can help unlock a door for someone else’s journey but a “why” can be so unique that it can be the subject that’s the least relatable from person to person.
When I started taking my health seriously in September 2018, it was because I had been diagnosed with diabetes and along with hypertension, sleep apnea, and the beginning of mobility issues I felt like my health was failing at 45. I was (and always will be) addicted to indulgent food, and I was lost and scared. The only thing more powerful than my relationship with food was my love for my family. For years my why was always “for my family” when I tried to get healthy, but that was so passive and lacking the intensity necessary to counter my issues with food.
Jean Luc and Nick made a brilliant point at the end of their video. They remind everyone that “you’re worth it”. That’s so well articulated. It’s the right way to make that point. The other way to say it (that I don’t like nearly as much) is “you have to do it for you”. Why’s are so personal that even something as generically great sounding as “you have to do it for you” can be completely un-relatable to someone else. I love indulgent food way more than myself, (and I really love myself!). The only thing I love more than indulgent food is my family. So doing it for myself has never been enough. Once I connected that indulgent food was going to destroy my family by destroying me, now the fight was on. Personally I needed that feeling of “this is your last second chance”. That wasn’t my only why, but it’s the one I would think about first when things got hard.
That’s why finding that core “why” is so important. When we start a new health kick we usually have a high level of motivation. But that battery eventually drains and you find yourself facing that crossroads that usually signals the beginning of the end of your latest health attempt. It’s moments like that where a powerful why can be the difference between “getting healthy is so hard” and “this is the first time I’ve ever gotten this far!!!”. When it feels like you’re about to crumble, a powerful why gives you that motivation to just push a little more.
One of the mindsets that’s helped me establish that powerful why has been to understand that matching the intensity of my why with the intensity of my problem is essential for me. That’s why “for my family” didn’t work. I’m so lucky to have a wife that has loved me regardless of my size. I have two kids that don’t care how big their dad is. So what did “for my family” really mean? It was just a generic virtue signalling statement that didn’t have any real intention behind it. Unlike changing behaviours or starting to move more, you can’t just “do” your why. It has to be found. Discovered. It takes time and actual intentional thought. It takes some emotional discomfort to define and articulate something that will hold you accountable when nothing else will. It’s not a guaranteed find for everyone. Also, I can tell you that finding a powerful why had a lot to do with my age too. I feel my mortality a lot more now than I could in my 30s (I felt downright invincible in my 20s).
Nick and Jean Luc used fitting into a dress for a special occasion as an “ok” why, but pointed out that it’s temporary. They talked about their own temporary whys and how their new whys are longer term, about finding and maintaining a quality of life together as long as they can. A quality and length of life that, through personal and family experience, isn’t guaranteed. And that brings me to my next slightly uncomfortable point.
For me, the most powerful whys are fear based. It has to be said. Perceived public embarrassment at a special event is a very powerful why, but it’s not permanent. My why of protecting my family’s future is all fear based and much longer term. Even as my why has evolved over these 3 years, there’s always been an element of fear to my whys. It’s kinda morbid right? Relying on fear. But fear triggers such a consistent conscience and unconscious response in people, it’s why it’s so effective for me. It’s the type of emotion that’s powerful enough to make me pause when I’m about to convince myself that a binge tonight is a good idea. It’s that intensity thing again. It just works for me.
So how do you find your why? Nick and Jean Luc’s tips of keep asking “why” is brilliant. If you’re like me, I avoided getting updates on my health from my doctor. I went when I absolutely had to. That’s it. I didn’t want to hear I needed to lose weight. Again. I’ve had very intense personal discussions with people who are desperate to improve their health, asking me for advice on how to combat their food issues. I’ve given them advice to talk to their doctor directly about their unhealthy lifestyle and the risks it’s poses (and mentioning to your doctor to pause the sugar coating they so often have to apply these days to difficult messages). I know that’s unorthodox advice that can be triggering for people who suffer from anxiety (🙋♂️🙋♂️). But it was one of those conversations that helped unlock the effectiveness of this journey for me. And if it had been a soft gentle reminder to lose weight, it never would have helped me. It forced me to picture the near worse case scenario in my mind’s eye, and begging for a second chance in the back of an ambulance is no way to live. Our second chance is the moment we realize how fragile this life can be.
There is no “why” that’s wrong. What helps me establish a powerful why may prevent you from doing so, and vice versa. My personal opinion is effective whys have an intensity to them that helps us face our health issues with conviction. Finding a powerful why is not a 60 minute process. It takes some emotional digging, honest self reflection, and may require deep conversations with yourself, loved ones or professionals. The importance of your why can’t be overstated, it’s the “click” that can change the course of your health journey forever.