What is your WHY? How NOT to Quit on Your Goals

This is for the guy who was going to workout yesterday and didn’t. Who was going to start eating better but hasn’t. It’s for the guy who has made the same New Year’s resolution over, and over, and over again – to make this the year THE YEAR you greet beach season with a Chuck Norris style roundhouse kick to the face, throwing down with a six-pack on your torso instead of in your hand. This the same guy who once again, with summer in full swing is embarrassed every time he takes his shirt off, wasting his energy grasping for rationalization as to why he wasn’t ready, AGAIN.

Quick pause to vent here: if you’re about the throw “the Dad Bod is in right now” bullshit at me – fuck that. Seriously. I HATE this term for so many reasons – the main one being implication that somehow being the best Dad you can be doesn’t include setting the example for your child with health and fitness. Anyway, moving on.

I want you to picture someone who you know to be truly great at something. It doesn’t matter what it is – art, music, sports, business – what did it take for them to get there? What sacrifice was required? True mastery has a universal cost. It’s paid for in discipline, sacrifice, consistency. The list goes on, and the cost is very high. Not many people seem to be able to afford it, and as I’m sure many of you have figured out, health and fitness is no different. Some people are highly successful in achieving their goals while others repeatedly fail or never really get started.

“We don’t get what we want in life. We get what we HAVE TO HAVE.” Tony Robbins

So what is it? What drives the exceptional few to find the physical, mental, and emotional “capital” to make those payments, day, after day, after day? How do they continue to push forward and succeed, when everyone else seems to quit, or settle for something less than they really wanted? Part of that answer would unequivocally be possessing the right plan, knowledge, and tools. But none of those will matter unless you have the fortitude to consistently use them over a long stretch of time. So, BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE, you need to start with a very clear, very powerful, and deeply honest answer to the question of “why” it is you want this. Why it is that you are now committed to making permanent change?

The insanely high number of people who approach their own health or fitness goals with a hilariously uncommitted and cavalier attitude continues to blow my mind. If you’re ACTUALLY serious about changing how you look and how you feel permanently (not some 10 minute wash of “now I’m motivated” bullshit) your psychological approach to fitness and nutrition should be no different than achieving mastery in any other arena. People who have a deep, emotional connection and clarity with their “why” have a chance to really go the distance. When someone is able to repeatedly harness their own emotion and use it to defeat weaker impulse, they can become unstoppable. Read that Tony Robbin’s quote again – this is kind of approach you will need if you’re looking for real change. Achieving your goal HAS to be something that you HAVE TO HAVE. You will need this because the fire that comes with chasing a new goal will start to burn out, you will forget why you started. You will question whether or not it’s worth it. You will experience failure. And you will want to quit.

Squeezing in the 4:30 AM workout, taking a couple hours every Sunday to meal prep, and checking yourself at 2 drinks instead of swinging for the fences with your boys – it’s hard. Especially upfront when you’re not seeing the results from your work yet. So what kind of “Why” do you think you’ll need to stay focused and keep your eye on the prize? Do you think the stock answers of “Oh, I just want to tone up,” or “I just want to lose 15 lbs,” or “I want to fit into this old pair of pants” are going to hold up? Are you fucking kidding me? Really? Where’s the inspiration or desire in that? This is exactly the type of yawn worthy, mediocrity laden, bullshit attitude that so many people approach their fitness goals with. No wonder so many people quit. When I start with a client, arguably the most critical thing for me to understand – check that, for US to understand, is WHY they’ve come to me for help and I don’t just mean what sort of technical problem with training or nutrition I can help them solve. When I ask “why,” I’m not just looking for a number or an objective – I’m talking about the REAL issue, the one that’s driving you to make the effort towards real change. Numbers, ideas, or visualizations are great – they can be incredible goals or benchmarks for measuring your progress, but again, I’m not looking for the “I want to lose 10 lbs” type of answer. I want to understand you, but more importantly I want YOU to understand you. If we understand what is truly driving you, when you’re tired or running out of steam, as a trainer I’ll know what buttons to push – and when I’m not around, you’ll know where to go for a mental refresher.

If you’re still not picking up what I’m putting down here, this is what my own answer to the question of why I push so hard in fitness and frankly why I love it so much. This question has had different answers over time, and they continue to evolve as I do, but for now here we go.

This all started with simply being sick of not liking how I looked. Feeling insecure, afraid to take my shirt off at the pool, getting teased for being chubby. It was painful and I put up with it for way too long. Eventually, I embraced that pain and harnessed it into dedicated effort. The fear of regression or embarrassment, falling back into being the “fat kid” is something that drives me to this day – but now, I’m grateful for that fear and pain. I’ve learned to use it. As I’ve grown, that fear is often overshadowed by the joy and confidence that comes from growth and accomplishing things I didn’t think were possible. Instead of being primarily driven by fear and insecurity, I am now mostly driven by an obsession for growth. Every day is a new opportunity to crush an old limitation.

Being in good shape can save your life – or someone else’s. A friend, loved one, or even a stranger. For me this was a huge driver in military life, but on a more basic level it is born out of need to be able to protect people. Focusing on the ability, or inability to be able to protect someone you love is a powerful driver and it’s an emotion I try to harness when I don’t feel like giving 100%.

This past year, “saving your life” also took on a new meaning for me. On July 6th, 2016 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. NOTHING could have prepared me for that, and it forced me to confront a level of fear unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had panic attacks; moments of such intense anxiety that I could barely breathe. I was deployed at the time of my diagnosis, and a long way from my traditional support network of friends and family. The only thing that really kept me “mentally together” was knowing that I was in the best shape of my life, and my body was ready for whatever fight was coming. Fitness and nutrition became a weapon and therapy at the same time – the physique I had built was something that I refused to let anything, including cancer, take from me.

So these are my mine – what are yours? Does it involve a woman or a broken heart? Is it for your kids or your family? Do you hate looking in the mirror? Did you have an experience that forced you to acknowledge “oh yea – maybe I’m not actually invincible?” Or maybe you are just absolutely disgusted with mediocrity you’ve allowed yourself to slip in to. Like I said, it doesn’t really matter what it is – what matters is that YOU understand, and that you USE it. Don’t make this about achieving the results or building the body that you “want” – make it about the goals and the physique you HAVE TO HAVE. That you refuse to experience this gift of life without.

Learn more about this philosophy below by watching this Simon Sinek Ted Talk below.

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Shane O’Connor
Shane is a fitness and nutrition coach and the founder of Alchemy Fitness. He is a cancer survivor and will soon be completing eight years of service as an active duty Naval Officer. Several years of his military time was spent within the U.S. Special Operations Command, supporting the U.S. Navy SEALs and other Special Operations units. He is also a licensed Realtor and real estate investor, and the Founder of Alchemy Real Estate LLC. Fitness Inquires: AlchemyFitnessOC@gmail.com