Finding your “Why” not your Willpower

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As I think back to my own weight loss and fitness journey, my business and work life, and other areas of my life, the concept of finding your “why” as an ingredient for success continues to weight on my mind. I used to think that the thing that made me succeed in my original weight loss was a sudden change in my willpower. Suddenly, I just decided that it was time to make the change in my health and I turned on the willpower and did if it just finally “stuck” this time. As I look back, I don’t think I truly understood what the missing ingredient was that was suddenly there this time. Each time I lost weight and made significant progress in my health and fitness, there was something that really connected with me and drove my willpower…something that really meant something to me.  This time I had a “why” that connected with me.

The first 40 or so pounds I lost was in the beginning of 2004 following a ski trip with my parents to Whitefish, MT. I had just taken a job about 6 months earlier as an engineer right out of college and had ballooned from about 250 or 260 in June of 2003 (pic to the right) to about 275 at the time of that trip. I could hardly make it down the mountain because I was so out of shape…I had met a few friends there one of the days and I totally held them back on the slopes. Then, my Dad and I had a conversation at the airport at the end of that trip where he told me that he had never seen me this big and that he and I both needed to do something. My why: I wanted to show my Dad that I could do this once and for all and I was embarrassed that I couldn’t ski with my friends…I wanted to be in shape so I could do things and not hold others back. At the time, it resonated with me and it drove me…it was my “why”.

I stalled shortly after that and when I first met my wife in 2004 and stayed there for the rest of the year. I didn’t gain anything back but I was still about 230 pounds. I still had a bit of a fire to lose more but not enough…now I could do stuff and not hold people back, I had a beautiful girl, and life was good. Then, in early 2005, I realized that I was going to be in a wedding in May…my own wedding. Now, that lights a fire. I talked to a buddy about doing a weight loss contest and my “why” was reborn. It was two-fold: 1) I wanted to look good at my wedding…people would be coming that had not seen me even as thin as 230 and I wanted their jaws to drop and I wanted to look good for my bride and on our honeymoon. 2) I wanted to destroy my buddy in this contest! By the end of the contest, I was down to 195 and I have the wedding photos to prove it (below)

There have been many health and fitness conquests since then including completing P90X for the first time, my first Olympic triathlon, my first half ironman triathlon, and so on. Could I describe the “why” for each of them? Probably…if I thought about it hard enough…some were smaller and less noble than others…but they were there.

As another example, when I decided to leave my job as an engineer and work B.A.S.E. Training full time at home with my girls, the biggest “why” of all stared me in the face. Without it, I would still be at work. Without it, my business wouldn’t be as successful as it is today. That why is a strong desire to see my girls grow up with my influence. I want them to know their Daddy well and I want to be a part of everything they do. This business allows me to do that and that “why” drives me to make this business successful so I can continue to be home with them. I have never had a more powerful “why”.

Now, maybe that seems like a very noble “why” to you, and I like to think that it is. Here is the thing though…your “why” doesn’t HAVE to be noble…it just has to drive you and connect with you deep down…that’s it. You don’t have to worry about finding a “why” that saves children in a third world country (although if you have one then great!). If you pick a noble “why” that really isn’t your “why”, then it won’t do you any good.  You can’t really pick you “why”…you have to find it.  If your “why” is that you want to prove to that cheerleader who called you fat in high school that you can lose the weight, then use that. If your “why” stems from anger at someone that said that you can’t, then use it. It just has to connect with you.

Now, as a caviat, this blog is not intended to define whether your goal is a good goal to have or if you have your priorities straight in your life or if you are a good or bad person…that is far beyond the scope of this blog. All I am saying is that the success of your goals is tied to your “why”. If you have a goal and you have a “why” that drives you to that goal, you are almost unstoppable….whether you are doing something that you should be or not.

Here is a rather lengthy quote from the book “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy (editor of Success Magazine):

“When you’re having trouble doing the hard work of achieving your goals, it’s common to believe you simply lack willpower. I disagree. It’s not enough to choose to be successful. What’s going to keep you consistent with the new positive choices you need to make? What’s going to stop you from falling back into your mindless bad habits? What’s going to be different this time versus the times you’ve tried and failed before? As soon as you get the slightest bit uncomfortable, you’re going to be tempted to slide back into your old, comfortable routine.
You’ve tried willpower before and it’s failed you. Forget about willpower. It’s time for why-power. Your choices are only meaningful when you connect them to your desires and dreams. The wisest and most motivating choices are the ones aligned with that which you identify as your purpose, your core self, and your highest values. You’ve got to want something, and know why you want it, or you’ll end up giving up too easily. So, what is your why? You’ve got to have a reason if you want to make significant improvements to your life. And to make you want to make the necessary changes, your why must be something that is fantastically motivating—to you. You’ve got to want to get up and go, go, go, go, go—for years! So, what is it that moves you the most? Identifying your why is critical. What motivates you is the ignition to your passion, the source for your enthusiasm, and the fuel of your persistence. You MUST know your why.”

For those of you in my challenge groups, I am going to ask you to spend some time figuring out what your “why” really is.  When I ask people why they want to join one of my groups, the answer is often “because I want to lose weight” or “because I want some accountability to eat healthier”.  That’s not what I am looking for.  Those are the things you want or things you think you need to reach your goal.  We need to find out why you want to reach that goal in the first place.  Why do you want to lose weight and why do you want to have accountability to eat healthier?

Do you know your “why” that is going to drive you to your goal?


  • Margaret Sager

    November 5, 2012

    Excellent post! My “why” came in two parts. The first to be healthy enough to keep up with my kiddos when all 4 are teenagers. (ACK!) The second part for me was Gram. Nuf said.

    • BASEtraining

      November 5, 2012

      Great “why”s Margaret!