Hello My Lovelies,
Thanks for being here again. I'm recording this episode on Monday because I'm heading off to Social Media Marketing World tomorrow and I know I'm going to be full on in to learning and growing and connecting with new people, so getting ahead of the game so I can be 100% there.
As I've shared in recent weeks I've made a commitment to myself to keep on showing up here every week for you and for the learning and growing I get out of it, too. I know there's something powerful to sticking around, being here, tweaking things as needed and staying committed to our collective greatness. And to keep on being to teach and learn mental models and tactical skills to help us really rock life. One of the greatest things about podcasting is that it invites experimentation and changing things as you go, so in that spirit, I'm going to make a format change.
I'll be continuing to introduce you to amazing people with Super Powers you might even either recognize in yourself or be inspired to further nurture in yourself. We continue the same long-form interviews I have been doing up til now. But I'm going to alternate between those interviews and shorter solo mini-episodes in which I'll explore either a specific concept or idea I've been thinking about or offer a tool or specific tactic I think you'll find useful.
So today is the first day of this alternating new format and I want to talk with you about the Motivating Power of your WHY.
If you're here my guess is that you're someone who has goals, things you'd like to do or create in the world, or possibly a plan to discover what's next in your life. Maybe you want to lose weight or create a new fitness habit or change a behavior you know isn't serving you well. Maybe you want to raise money for a specific project or build a business or create or improve a love partnership.
Regardless of what specifically you want to achieve you probably already know about SMART goals and the importance of making sure you goals are specific, measurable, realistic etc. In case you're not familiar with SMART goals I'll include links to articles on my blog and one I wrote for Techmama's a few years ago. But for now, suffice it to say that in order to be effective you need to be as clear and specific about the outcome you're after as possible.
But what if you have a good, clear and specific goal that meets the SMART goal requirements and you're just not making the progress you'd hoped for. Maybe you're feeling a bit stuck or even noticing some self-sabotaging behaviors. If that sounds like you, you might be missing the the Power of knowing your WHY…maybe you need a more compelling reason to take action and follow through.
Here's the thing. Achieving a goal is hard. Change is hard. It's uncomfortable. If you have a goal, you can be sure that you're going to have to do some work to achieve it. You're going to have to get off the couch, turn off Facebook, say no to drinks after work or go to the gym when you'd rather have a snack. You're going to have to be uncomfortable. And so whether you're trying to achieve a big goal or change a habit or behavior, when discomfort is involved or when you have to work at something (when watching netflicks would be so much easier), you're going to need a very good reason to motivate you, to compell you through the discomfort. Because sometimes not taking that next step, or returning to a familiar behavior is a lot easier and a lot more comfortable.
So what might the reason be? I can hear you asking yourself that very question. Maybe you think you already know, that it's obvious. Generally, reasons motivated by shame or avoidance will not stick. So check the first reason that occurred to you against that. Trying to get yourself to do something challenging or uncomfortable instead of something easy simply because you “should” do it is probably not going to work for very long either. That's my experience anyway, if yours is different that's great. I know there are a lot of motivational approaches that talk about the importance of developing self-discipline as a key to success and it is in fact true that a tough character can work for a while but it just might not stick and for me changing my behavior on the basis of a “should” or by using self-imposed discipline just doesn't have staying power.
Similarly, if you remember back to episode #4 I shared that our brain's cannot process negative information or words, so if you have a goal to hit a 6-digit income, a reason like “I don't want to be in debt” will not be all that effective because all our brain hears is that you are in debt and on some level discouragement takes over and well, it's just that much more difficult to keep up the actions needed if we feel discouraged. So when the going gets hard, or boring or uncomfortable we're going to be better off positive motivation.
And it's so much more powerful to be motivated by a WHY that is inspiring or exciting. Ideally your WHY should reflect where you're headed, where you want to go, the who, the you, the person want to be, the life you want to live in which case it will be so much more effective, so much easier to stick with. If the reason you want to achieve your goal generates a feeling of adventure, satisfaction, pride, accomplishment. If there's an element of contribution to someone else, or celebration and inspiration…all of which generate a good feeling, you are more likely to feel some enthusiasm even while doing the hard work.
So clearly having a compelling reason, knowing you WHY, and getting motivation from it is important because it a repeating message. If you open yourself to it, you'll start to see this idea showing up in all kinds of place. Personally, I like the idea that we're all connected and that when we see themes, memes and cliches around us, I assume it exists because it's true because there's an important underlying truth we just need to hear more of or more often. And the idea of the power of WHY has been around a long time and you can find lots of ways to explore it some versions of which might resonate more with you than others.
Tony Robbins, for example, talks about RPM which is a neomonic for his system in which the
R: Results…what is the outcome, the goal etc what do you want?
P: Purpose, WHY
M: Map, the action plan, how
So it's essentially a What, Why, How model and he emphasizes that if you spend energy on the how, which is where most people begin, it activates your reptilian brain and brings in fear and anxiety. But the why…the WHY is the power point and the thing we most often miss but the place we have to go to first before we go the M, the MAP which is the action plan.
More recently Simon Sinek has popularized his own version of the importance of WHY with a similar model. He also address the same three basic steps (What you Want, How you'll get it and Why it's important) and his model also emphasizes the WHY as central. He even has two books about it, called Start with Why and Find Your Why.
Recently I discovered Rachel Hart who is a coach in SF. Her work also references the importance of the WHY which she calls having a Compelling Reason. I'm hoping to have her a guest on the show because I want you to meet her. Her specific focus is on the way we think about alcohol in our culture and she coaches people on the process of Taking a Break or Drinking less. She's a total rockstar and offers such an important alternative viewpoint to the black and white thinking in our culture around alcohol which suggests that you are in one of only two binary categories. Either you're a rock-bottom alcoholic who has to admit powerlessness and then give up all control to a higher power OR you're a normal drinker having an all-around good time and party and it's all good. She brings a lot more nuance to it and she articulates ways of thinking, mental models and ways we can use our thinking to create more freedom. Her approach can be applied across the board even if alcohol isn't your specific issue. So, hopefully I'll be able to get her on the show soon but in the meantime, here's her description of a compelling reason which really resonated with me. She says:
“A compelling reason is exciting, it captures your attention, it makes you think, I want to do this, I want to go for it. When you have a compelling reason, you're like, okay, when do we start? A compelling reason compels you to action, that's why it's called a compelling reason.”
So if you're saying Lisa, that's all great, but if I don't know it, how do I find it. So I haven't read Sinek's Find Your Why yet but I do know that both Rachel and Tony Robbins suggest going deep, peeling back layers and trying to find the reason under the reason…a bunch of levels down. To ask yourself why you're after that goal and then to ask it again…to keep digging deeper. Because probably that's where the heart will be, that's where you'll find the juiciness, the reason that has you wanting to go for it, that captures your attention, that gets you excited and fired up. That will be worth pushing past the discomfort and the hard work when you're confronted with it.
You can do it now with me. First identify one big audacious goal you'd like to accomplish or one behavior of lifestyle habit you want to create or change. Something that feels important, critical even…something you really care about changing. Then ask yourself, why. Why do I want this? What is important about it?
So right now, I'll walk you through my own today example.
I believe in Intermittent Fasting for health. I don't want to go off too far on a wild tangent. I'll save that for another episode on fasting when we will go into the research and science that supports the long-term benefits of intermittent fasting. And in the past I've had a pretty good intermittent fasting practice but I got out of the habit over the holidays and while I've been meaning to get back to it, I haven't fasted even one day yet this year in spite of thinking about it, and intending to do, in spite knowing it's one of the best bets we have for long-term health.
So this morning, my husband asked me if I wanted to fast with him today. And one part of me said, yes, great, I have been intending to reset on my fasting practice for months now and this would be such a great way to do it because fasting is so much easier together. And the other part said, “What!? Hell no…I want coffee and cream”. And those are the two parts that have been doing silent battle in me for the past few months…which is the reason I've been stuck on this particular lifestyle habit change. So even though I believe fully that fasting is good for my health on so many levels, even though my brain, my linear-thinking side that has done enough research to know that 1) fasting for a day isn't going to hurt and 2) it just might be the lowest cost action I can take to contribute to my long-term good health…even still, my automatic, habitual brain wants me to believe that there's no good reason to skip my morning coffee…or to miss that trip to the refridgerator when I'm stuck in my work later today.
Now, whether you're into intermittent fasting or not, you can probably empathize…it is difficult to not eat…and mean beyond the the fact that I need to eat to survive…when I do that episode on fasting we'll definitely talk about the fact that we don't need as much food as we think, as we've been trained to think we require. But beyond being a source of nutrition and energy eating is embedded in our culture in so many ways. We socialize and connect around meals, we gather for events and celebrations around food, it's a social connector, it's entertainment. Or it can be a habit, or even an avoidance, a distraction and a way to slow down. Eating serves so many purposes and roles and so fasting is uncomfortable and difficult. Just like any other change like the one you might be working on.
So today I needed to find my compelling reason…the purpose for fasting. The reason under the reason that just might push me past the discomfort of skipping my coffee….
So, I have to do the work…I have to bring my conscious brain to the task of identifying a compelling reason I can actually feel excited about. What do I need to think about or set my mind on so that there's some degree of excitement for me when I think about fasting, so I feel positive and empowered not punished and deprived. Because if I don't get to that and I feel deprived I might be able to struggle through but imagine how easy it would be to say nah, I really want that Indian food. I'll fast tomorrow. And that takes awareness and attention, which can be unfamiliar.
So what is my why? One reason people fast is to lose weight…and sometimes that occurs to me too, for it's not enough at least not for me. And sometimes the reminder of the long-term health benefits are helpful but sometimes there's not enough immediacy or emotional juice there either.
So pick one of your goals and ask yourself why it matters. Why do you want it…In my case, Why do I want to fast today? The first thing that comes to mind is that I know it's going to be good for me. Good for my health. But if I keep digging deeper then I just might get to reasons like:
I want to fast today because:
I like the energy I get from not feeling weighed down by food.
I want to fast today because it's easier to dance when my stomach isn't full.
I want the extra time to do the work that's meaningful to me and to be creative.
I want to live an authentic and fully engaged life.
I want to experience of myself as someone who is capable of creating new habits and who can change.
If I look at this list I notice that some of those Motivations are a lot more compelling than others. To tell you the truth, even though the idea of losing weight seems like a good motivation…what I notice is that today the one that jumps out to me, that has some energy that could sustain me through having to skip lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant is the fact that I want to experience of myself as someone who is capable of creating new habits and who can change and grow. There's energy in that…I can get excited about it.
The thought of being that person is pretty compelling and spills over into all kinds of other things related to being happy and having a life I love that's engaged and authentic and free. All of that has so much more power for me and as long as I can see the connection between that reason under the reason, that Motivating WHY then I'll actually feel good about fasting. So, when I start to associate fasting today with a new, better version of me…with the empowerment that comes from awareness, creativity, dance, extra time and being engaged and real…that's going to help a lot when I'm feeling the pull towards my morning latte. That has possibility and energy beyond giving up my coffee.
And notice, there doesn't have to be just one motivating reason either. Sometimes you can come at it from various angles.
And it might not be the same compelling reason next time but the tactic of identifying the deeper reason, finding the Motivating Power of WHY can be revisited as often as needed. And the more you do it, the more that practice itself becomes a habit, the more likely the behavior is to stick.
So I hope that's useful to you. That is the show for today. If you happen to be a SMMW tweet at me @lisabl. If you have ideas or feedback, as always please send me email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It means so much to hear from you…just knowing you're listening and with me and working on yourself along with me is so encouraging.
As always you can find show notes at lisabl.com/13 and we'll back with the long-form interview next week. Until then go deep, be real, and do one nice thing for someone else.