The One Question You Need To Ask Yourself If You're Setting A New Goal This Year
Everyone's journey into wellness is unique, but there's one common thread that often separates the goals we quit from the goals that stick. It's not just what we do or even how we do it. Motivation to make real, lasting change in our lives comes from our reason why. This new year, mbg teamed up with WW for My Why to share new science-backed insights, inspiration, and actionable strategies that help keep your why close by.
New year, new you, right? It's a popular saying, one that gets tossed about with great ease around this time every winter. The problem is, making a change or achieving a goal is usually a lot more challenging than creating a vision board.
The thing to remember when trying to tweak, change, or habituate a behavior? Reminding yourself why you're doing it in the first place. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's more powerful than we think. This year, rather than focusing only on what you'll do to reach your goals, take some time to reflect on—and keep top of mind—why you are reaching for them in the first place.
Why your "why" works.
When you look at your overall wellness journey, there are many times when challenges will show up along the road. So reminding yourself of your why is crucial, explains clinical psychologist and obesity investigator Gary Foster, Ph.D., who's the chief scientific officer at WW.
"Doing so helps you stay inspired not just in the short-term but also throughout the long haul," he says. The reason? It's all about putting your actions in greater context. When you think of your goals in the short-term, Foster explains, it's easy to think of them as simply one more thing to cross off your to-do list—and even easier to skip them when you're just not feeling it. "But reminding yourself why you're changing your behavior grounds the reason you're doing it in something deeper, more fundamental, more personal, and more lasting," he says.
That attachment to something deeper is what will keep you going long-term. "Real life is inevitably going to throw some obstacles in the way from time to time, and so having this anchor, this meaningful reminder of 'this is why I'm actually doing this' can go far in helping you stick with your goals," he continues.
Finding your why.
It might feel intangible, but you'll know you've landed on your why when it's something that truly resonates with you.
How do you get there? In one example Foster gave us, let's say your goal is to get healthier and drop a few excess pounds so you feel more confident about how you see yourself or look in photos—that's a popular initial "why" for many people. But Foster suggests that continuing to ask yourself "why" could lead to something even more significant. "Ask yourself, 'Why do I want this?' It might be that you want to try things you never thought you would or have more energy as a parent to be active with your kids as they grow up. In the end, your why usually ladders up to a core value for you—anything that feels consistent with who you are as a person," says Foster.
So to zero in on your why, first ask yourself, "What's my goal?" Whether it's to lose weight, sleep better, or lower your cholesterol, once you have a clear sense of your goal, ask yourself why you want to achieve it. "At first, it can be tough to pinpoint because we tend to think about the what rather than the why," explains Foster. "But most people, using that core-value filter, will know when they have hit upon their why."
How to keep your why close by.
Of course, it's one thing to know what your why is, but it's a whole other thing to actually remember to, you know, remember it. That's where the "keep your 'why' close by" mantra comes in, a popular favorite with Foster and the rest of his team at WW.
First, be as detailed as possible with your why. For example, instead of "I want to have more energy," you could say, "I want to feel better in the morning so I can enjoy that time with my spouse." Then, turn your "why" into some sort of physical reminder—like a sign, symbol, or even a photograph—rather than trying to remember to think of it from time to time. And then, put that physical thing somewhere you'll stumble upon it on a daily basis, like by your medicine cabinet, your bedside table, or anywhere else that's part of your daily routine; you just need to be sure it's in your daily orbit.
"Having a visible reminder or a physical trigger can help keep your why top of mind," Foster says. "The more you see it, feel it, and are reminded of it, the better." Which, of course, is the entire point of setting those goals in the first place.