We all have habits we want to make or break. Things we want to do, and things we want to stop doing. But have you ever really asked yourself why? WHY do you want to start exercising? WHY do you want to cut back on your alcohol intake? WHY do you want to learn a new language?
You need to have a reason, and it needs to be a damn good one. Things like, “Everyone else is doing it”, or “I really should be doing this”, or “It’d be a cool thing to do” aren’t good enough. Figure out your “why” and all of a sudden you’ve found some extra motivation to drive you on when energy levels are low.
I’m talking about all those things you’ve been meaning to do for a while but haven’t quite found the right moment to get started. Like learning to play a musical instrument or to speak a new language. (I’ve already written a post on why you should get your shit together, so you should pop on over there if you’re struggling.)
Start recognising what’s important to you and what’s not, and why. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to be a bit fitter or healthier, and yet so few of us do anything about it. Or we start doing something and then run out of steam. The reason is often that we don’t have a big enough “why”.
I mean, you can bet your arse that you’d be shovelling down the broccoli if your life depended on it. And, frankly, it does. Or, at least, the quality of it does. Quality of life is a big “why”. Yes, it’s easy to watch TV. It’s easy to hit the refresh button on your browser. But when you realise that you might wake up some day and be physically incapable of doing much more than sitting on the sofa, all of a sudden that Netflix binge doesn’t seem so appealing.
Ask yourself why.
- WHY do I want to be healthy? Because it’s important.
- WHY is it important? Because I want to live longer.
- WHY do I want to live longer? Because I want to see my children grow up.
- WHY ELSE is it important? Because it improves the quality of my life, so that I can still be active and pain-free in my later years. So I can play with my grandkids. So I can still hit a hole-in-one. So I can live independently and do everything unaided.
How many people give up smoking after a loved one dies of lung cancer? It’s because their “why” is suddenly presented to them in a very real, cold way. It suddenly becomes, “Because I want to live.”
Spending time with family is another thing that most people strive for, myself included. I always try to be more present with my daughter, which means I often have to remind myself to put my phone down and just concentrate on having fun with her. On helping her build something or learn something. On making messes and memories.
That’s my “why”. I put my phone down because I want her to remember that her mother rolled up her sleeves and got stuck right into that sandpit with her. I want her to look back on long days spent in the playground, or reading stories, or painting pictures. I don’t want to have a whole bunch of camera phone photos and no real experiences.
On the flip side, there’s a good chance you’ll realise that something isn’t nearly as important to you as you thought. I always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument (specifically the guitar and harp). I tried it a little when I was younger, and often considered getting lessons, going to classes, etc. It got to the point where I would just feel like a failure every time I thought about it. As it turns out, my “why” wasn’t big enough.
Why did I want to learn? Because my dad and a large portion of my extended family have musical talents. Because I assumed it must have been passed to me, and I needed to use my “gift” (it wasn’t, and I didn’t). Because lots of my friends played instruments and I wanted to be like them. Because I wanted to fit in and feel accomplished.
Basically, a lot of “shoulds”. I should be able to play because members of my family play. I should be more like other people. I should be good enough. My “why” was full of negativity. It wasn’t that playing an instrument was important to me, it was more that I felt it should be important to me.
I let it go.
The right “why” will light a fire under you. It will inspire you and motivate you to be a better person. It will make you realise that your favourite show will still be available later, but your kids will only be young once. It will encourage you to add more greens to your meals (except sprouts, of course. Tiny piss cabbages. If the Bible were true but, instead of an apple, Eve had been presented with a sprout, we’d all be fine and dandy now).
If your “why” is answered with a “should” or is otherwise not up to scratch, pack its bag and send it on the next bus outta here. Ain’t nobody got time for the non-important shit.
Find your “why” and you’ll find a life worth living.