Why we fall short
I have spent the last fourteen years working professionally in the health and fitness industry. As a trainer and strength coach, a health and wellness coach, a hypnotherapist/life coach, and a corporate wellness program director, I can say that I have come in to contact with many different people with many different goals, and there is one question that almost every one of those people have in common:
Why do I not always act in ways consistent with my goals?
Of course, I experience this first hand as well. Even though I am a long time athlete and work in the health and fitness industry, it doesn’t change the fact that we are all fellow humans, dealing with the same psychological issues.
So, why do we fall short of our goals so often? There are many different aspects to address when attempting to answer that question; way more than I can write about here. But I would like to touch on just a few of them to see if maybe you can identify where you might be getting stuck.
To begin with, understand that it is common for most people to immediately look for an external cause to the problem; I need a better/harder routine, I need a different diet plan, I need more money, more time, more energy, fewer distractions, a nicer gym, better shoes, cheese and chocolate and wine need to be less delicious, etc… While some of these may be legitimate reasons (I mean, chocolate is delicious, after all), you will have much more success if you first look at your own behaviors.
Don’t believe me? Here is a simple example to show you that the “sticking spot” isn’t always “out there”:
How many of you know that you should eat more vegetables and drink more water? (You don’t have to raise your hands. First off, I can’t see them. And secondly, when you talk to enough people about this, you realize that most of them have their hands in the air.) Ok, now, how many of you DO eat more vegetables and drink more water? I am guessing that there aren’t as many hands in the air, right? Why is that? You already know the information, and you know what you should be doing. Hearing more and more experts tell you that you need to eat more vegetables and drink more water probably isn’t going to finally get you to do it, either.
But that’s what most of us do. We keep seeking out different/better sources, presumably waiting for that one special source that is finally going to magically stick and lead us to the promise land of a healthy and happy life. Except that we usually never find it, and we keep spinning in our old familiar cycle.
So where do we get stuck when it comes to following through on our health and fitness goals?
First, most of us tend to rely too much upon the feeling of motivation. Feeling motivated is an awesome experience. It is a mixture of joy and hope and determination. It makes you want to jump up and say “Yes!! Let’s go do this!!” (and then start punching and kicking the air).
Unfortunately, human feelings and emotions are fickle. They come and go like those patches of blue sky and sunshine on a rainy Seattle day. If we only acted in accordance to our goals when the sun was out, we would certainly never reach our destination. Goals are reached through consistent, sometimes boringly repetitive, action, regardless of how you are feeling.
The cumulative effect of those actions, however large or small, is what brings us closer to our goals, whether it is creating the routine of healthy eating, building muscle strength and size, or losing weight. Relying upon the feeling of motivation just isn’t enough. You have to determine the path to your goal and then commit to the action that it will take to get you there.
How do you get through those tough times and continue to act in ways consistent with your goals when you aren’t feeling motivated? That brings us to our second reason: your WHY.
Determining your WHY might be one of the most important things you can do when setting your goals. The strength of your WHY is what carries you through those hard moments, when you don’t feel like doing the right thing.
“I want to be healthier” is not a very strong WHY when you are tired and hungry, haven’t done your workout yet, and there is a pint of Ben and Jerry’s finest in the freezer. However, “I want to look good in my wedding dress, which I will be wearing in front of 150 people,” well, that might just give you the incentive you need to put in the necessary work. Or, if I tell you, “Do 30 minutes of cardio at least 5 times a week because it will improve your health,” you might get a few days in here and there. But If I tell you “Do 30 minutes of cardio at least 5 times a week because your labs are so bad right now that if you don’t do that amount of exercise you might die of a heart attack in the next 5 years,” I am guessing you might get six or seven days a week in.
Big difference, right? The point is, the more real and palpable meaning there is to your goals, the more likely it is to carry you through those days when you just don’t want to make the best choices.
The third reason that I will mention here is the “deeper conflict.” In this case, you have established a meaningful WHY to your goal, you understand that you can’t rely upon the feeling of motivation and have committed to an action plan…and yet…you keep acting in ways that take you further away from your goal instead of closer to it.
There are many things that can be explored when this happens, but oftentimes I have found that there is a deeper, potentially unconscious, goal operating underneath it all. It might be better explained by an example:
Imagine someone who seems to have a pretty decent WHY, and they are very diligent about keeping up with their workouts, but more often than not they participate in self-sabotaging behaviors, perhaps when it comes to eating. When questioned about it, they may even be perplexed about why they did what they did (and they might even say something like, “Well, part of me wanted to act in one way, but another part of me wanted to act in a different way.)
Usually, this signifies that the behavior that is not in alignment with the stated goal is satisfying a different goal. One possibility might be that the person has an issue with control. Perhaps they had a parent who was really controlling, and now they have a deep resentment around being told what to do. Even though they are being truthful about their stated goal, the deeper program that is running underneath it all is that when they are told how they should eat, they unconsciously rebel against it. The end result is an ongoing cycle of self-sabotage, and only by becoming conscious of the issue can they end the pattern.
Of course, this is just one of many possible explanations, and the three reasons I listed here are just a small sample of the types of things that can get in the way of achieving our goals.
If you need some assistance in this area, I offer training and coaching services in the Seattle area and to all members of the Fremont Health Club. Feel free to reach out to me to see how I might be able to assist you in reaching your goals.
Whether you work with me, with one of the other trainers at FHC, or go it on your own, I encourage you to take that first step. Ask yourself:
What can I do today that my future self will thank me for?
You will be happy that you did!
Free Rein Athletics