There is one goal I have heard more than any other, but…
It is almost never the first, or even the second, goal people mention.
Every trainer-client relationship begins with some version of “What are your goals?” And now that I have been working in fitness for 20 years, I have reflected on what really motivates us to stick with fitness.
Something about the 20-year milestone made me unconsciously reflect on all the different answers I’ve heard over the years to the “goals” question. At first, there are all the usual ones you can likely predict:
- Lose weight
- Get in shape
- Have more energy
- Maintain weight loss
- Stay consistent
- And on, and on…
Any good fitness professional will dig deeper to find the real motivators. You will never hear someone, in telling the story of how he finally got fit, explain how, after a couple of years of consistent effort he, finally, wonderfully…lowered his cholesterol.
The goals you get as answers to the goals question are most often the goals you expect to get, and people feel like they should be giving you.
In digging deeper to find the real motivators, we uncover the why. Why bother? Really. ”You’re going to die anyway,” goes the flawed, simple-minded logic of obviously unhealthy people everywhere.
So why bother? What is the point of pursuing fitness?
A great answer to that is very individualized.
Over the last 20 years, as I reflect on interviewing new clients about goals, digging deeper, helping them examine the deep, powerful, positive reasons why they want fitness, there is one unspoken goal that has come up more often than any other. It is some version of the following:
I want to be able to play with my children/grandchildren.
And there you have it. The most common unspoken goal. Most people have no idea they even have this goal until they find themselves saying it.
This is the one that has come up the most frequently when discussing what someone really wants from their fitness plan.
You want great experiences and joyful memories with the people you love doing the things you love and visiting and exploring places you love.
It’s not really the bulleted goal list above. Those do not truly motivate. Running away from something (extra weight, disease risk, etc.) puts you in the role of cheesy horror movie victim – running away from the ax murderer while looking back at him. And you will stumble and fall.
If you’re going toward something great, look at that thing. You aren’t avoiding diabetes or obesity – you are going toward a better version of yourself that can fully participate in your own life.
I call it discovering the “emotional relevance of exercise,” and it is essential for anyone seeking harmony in fitness. Otherwise, the abstract goal fails to drive your emotions toward health behaviors and the result of that is a continuous high mental effort to stay consistent.
When your actions and desires point in the same direction, however, things get much easier.
What’s the emotional relevance of exercise for YOU?