Explore Your Why

Senior man smiling outdoors to explore why to be health - Vitality

Welcome to the Healthy Habit Hacks blog series! We’re here to help turn your healthy intentions into habits. Each month we’ll share an article with tips on how to move from wishing to doing.

The May Healthy Habit Hack: Explore Your Why

In guiding you to turn intentions into habits, we’ve discussed how to: Start where you are, Track your actions, Break goals into small steps, and Find your joy! This month we encourage you to Explore your why to help you start and stick to either healthy habits or break bad ones. Knowing your reasons for why you want to make a change can help motivate you and keep you on track, especially in difficult moments.

Are you ready to find your why, dig deep and get personal? Then, read on.

What are your dreams? What is your vision of a healthy you? Why do you want to be healthy? When forming a healthy habit – or breaking a bad one – it can be helpful to start with a visual image of your dreams. Creating a vision board – a digital or printed poster or visual representation of your personal dreams and goals – is one technique in forming a clear picture of what healthy means to you.

Once you have a vison of where you want to be, bucketing your why according to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be helpful in finding what makes you tick. Let’s take the more obvious one first – extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivators are outside of your inner self and so things like avoiding punishment, receiving praise or recognition, or receiving a more tangible reward like money, a gift certificate or other goods are examples. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from within – you do it because you love what you’re doing, feel passionate about it, find it intriguing, challenging – or simply enjoy it.

When you think about what has kept you on track with past successes, consider were you motivated intrinsically or extrinsically? You’ll likely have continued success in starting and sticking to your healthy habits and breaking bad habits if you have both types of motivational support along the way.

Often your personal values provide you with the motivation to break bad habits and build healthy ones. Let’s explore them. These factors – or guiding principles – influence your behavior. Having a better sense of your personal values can guide you in learning your “why”. You’ll find when you align your values with your goals you’ll be more likely to stay motivated to reach them. Values may include health, beauty, faith, excellence, ambition, success, productivity, authority, cleanliness, achievement, independence, self-discipline, respect, loyalty, forgiveness, helpfulness, excitement, bravery, tradition, security, fairness, happiness, honor, modesty, wisdom, family, friendships, freedom, creativity, courage, safety, peace, social justice, the environment, and wealth. Now think about your top 5 or 10 values that you hold and how they influence your behavior and with that, see if they match with your health goals and can become motivational influences going forward.

One final step to explore your why is considering common reasons for either building healthy habits or breaking bad ones. Sometimes in reviewing what others have found to work can work for you too.

If you’re building healthy habits, see if framing your why as others have helps:

  • I will eat better and lower my cholesterol because my doctor recommended it
  • I will cope better with stress and take control of my life
  • I will exercise more to look better
  • I will have better sleep habits, to have more energy and feel better, mentally

If you’re breaking bad habits, see if framing your why like this helps:

  • I will quit smoking so that I can live longer and healthier
  • I will stop drinking because I plan to get pregnant and want a healthy pregnancy and baby
  • I will stop worrying and be more present in the moment to set a good example for my children
  • I will quit smoking so I can save money

Remember to revisit this exercise in learning your why when you need the motivation to start a new healthy habit or break a bad one; or to keep yourself on track if you’re starting to lose momentum.

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