The idea of finding a compelling “why” has probably been around long before Simon Sinek (there has to be a Sinek/cynic joke there somewhere) wrote his now famous book on the subject. (If you haven’t read the book, you can see his TED talk on the same theme here).
“Find your why”, we’re told and everything else will fall into place.
I’ve struggled with this for quite a few years, especially in some areas of my life, such as personal health. In work, it’s pretty easy to find a compelling “why” – my mortgage payment is due and I would like to have a roof over my head this month – but for some aspects of life, it can be a struggle to find a massively compelling and motivating force that will keep you on track.
Dieting is, for me at least, a great example of this.
For years, I was overweight.
Not HUGELY overweight, but I was definitely waddling into the “morbid” section of the obese category. At one point, I saw a doctor who told me that I needed to lose weight, or risk the consequences of all manner of bad illnesses and horrible bowel conditions that would undoubtedly ensue.
When you’re that overweight (I was 17st), there are severe health risks. If you don’t lose weight and make the effort to become healthy, there WILL be consequences.
In short, shit gets real (I is totally down with da kidz, innit).
The “why” in this case is obvious; lose weight or die early.
So I did (lose some weight, that is, not die early). I did pretty well and got down to 12 and a half stone, right on the outer limit of my healthy weight (according to the NHS website, the lower limit of my healthy range would be 9st – something I’m never in danger of seeing without the aid of amputation).
Trouble was, at a healthy weight, the “why” of “you need to lose weight or you’ll die young” is no longer massively compelling, because it’s no longer true.
Even if my BMI shows me to be ever so slightly overweight, I’m not at risk. All other results being equal, being 13 stone isn’t going to get me on an episode of Embarrassing Fat Bodies (though the threat of an appearance on the show could be a massively compelling “why” in itself).
So, I relaxed my diet a bit. Why not?
I’m no longer “at risk”.
And I slipped. Not too far, but down to 13 and a half stone.
Now I feel in limbo. I want to lose weight and be “healthy” again, but the “why” of an early grave or horrible illness isn’t quite so pressing as when I was nearly four stone heavier and puffing as I walked to the fridge.
I’m overweight, but not “OH MY GOD! LOOK AT HIM. HOW IS HE STILL ALIVE???” overweight.
I needed a new “why”.
And I think I may have found it:
I REALLY want to be a good grandad to my Grandchildren.
I want to run around, pick them up, swing them by their arms until they are sick, then, after I’ve cleaned up that sick, I want to do it again.
And, to do that, I’m going to need be in good shape and I’m going to need energy.
According to this chart, it’s likely to be another 20 years before my youngest has her first child (IF she chooses to have one; I’m not going to force her…but I will banish her to a tower until she complies with my wishes*).
In 20 years, I’ll be 62 (I’ve done the maths). If she has another child, I may be closer to 67.
If I’m going to be an active 70 year old, I’m going to need to be in good health. If I’m going to be cleaning up sick, I need to make those changes TODAY.
I have no choice. The only way I can guarantee me being there for my grandchildren is by looking after myself NOW. Making healthy food choices, keeping active, stretching my body and building strength.
I want to be there for my grandkids. I want to be an absolute pest to my own children, as I whip the grandkids away and make a fuss of them.
Obviously, I’m not saying that you can’t be a fabulous grandparent if you’re not physically healthy or active. That’s clearly not the case. Unhealthy people can be awesome and totally healthy people can be absolute plonkers; that’s not my point.
What I’m creating is MY perfect image of what I want to be when I’m a grandparent.
It’s MY “why” for keeping physical health (as well as a few more things) a priority for me.
I’m finding myself saying things like, “I’ll just have one…” far less often, because everything seems to count now. Even though my “why” is far off into the future, everything seems to matter now. Every action is either taking me closer to being that awesome Grandad that I want to be, or taking me away from it. It’s that simple.
Every. Single. Action.
* I’m mostly joking.