We’ve heard it before. “Start with why”, but why start with why?
There are multiple books that go over the nature of human behavior (Atomic Habits by James Clear, The power of habit by Charles Duhig, and a bit of Sapiens by Yuval Harari). They essentially go over the habit loops. For example:
Cue - Action - Reward
I smell bacon - I eat bacon - I love eating bacon.
I see pizza - I buy pizza - I feel good.
My car is running low on gas - I get gas - I can drive.
I don't like my physical appearance - I eat veggies - I look good.
I feel low energy levels - I eat veggies - I feel high energy levels.
My kid is crying - I feed my kid - My kid feels better.
I see my people are slaves - I help create a revolution - I aided in their freedom.
Most of our actions follow this template, because of it, we need to understand the depth of the cues that are creating an impulse inside ourselves, which eventually define us. These cues have to be strong enough to force us into action, if they are not worth the action required to experience the reward, then we won't experience the reward.
Most of us love sugar, but we wouldn’t run (action) two miles for a little piece of chocolate because the cue is not strong enough, and the reward is not strong enough either. On the other hand, some of us would run two miles (action) for the future promise of being healthy because that is a strong reward.
How do we apply this to the “rewards” we are currently getting in our lives? In other words, how do we modify our cues to experience “rewards” we actually enjoy?
Not feeling fulfilled, or not being proud of our physical appearance or our the state of our current relationships, are all consequences of the lack of actions we are taking, but we can shape that by modifying our cues.
Our cues are our whys
When we find ourselves failing every time we start a new training program or losing the ability to stay consistent in the pursuit of our goals, then, we don’t need a new program, or gym, or shoes... We just need a stronger motive, a stronger cue. Coaches, youtube videos, songs, etc… all of those can exponentially increase our desire to act, but if we don’t find a good “why”, we will very quickly stop pursuing that thing we want.
You be the judge
Let’s take a look at a couple of motives, and you choose which one is the strongest one for someone that is trying to run a marathon.
Motive 1: “ I will be strong for my daughters. I will set an example for them on how to push through hardships.”
Motive 2: “ I want to look good so I can post good pictures."
Motive 3: “I bought the new shoes Usain Bolt wears.”
It’s obvious, isn’t it? We want to be able to define a clear cue, a strong why behind our actions. And we want it to be so strong that it pushes us to go over all the obstacles that are going to be set in place preventing us from action.
I get it, now what.
1)Go over the rewards you are expecting.
Think about the rewards that you want. You want to be healthy, you want to look good, you want to compete at a high level, you want a promotion, you want a car. Why?
Write down why that is going to compel you to take the hardest actions. And then, keep it present, make sure you are seeing it every day, so it pushes you to take the actions needed to experience the reward. Use the habit loop.
2)The obstacle is the way.
Counting on having obstacles helps a lot, especially because it gives us the ability to prepare beforehand. Spend 10 to 15 minutes every morning asking yourself the following questions:
-What will my reaction be when the obstacles do happen? We both know that is really easy for our brain to rationalize the actions required for staying committed to our goals. If you have followed any fitness/nutrition-related goal before, you know what I’m talking about.The obstacles we’ve faced are:
-Super slow progress
-The masses giving you their opinions
-Forgetting to meal prep
If we fail, we can start again… We can always start again.
So, how strong is your why?