I’m sitting here, grinding my teeth in frustration because I can’t comfortably walk at my usual pace and distance each day. It’s not that my toe hurts badly, but it hurts just enough when I walk at a reasonable exercise pace that it’s really uncomfortable when I try. And as my wife pointed out, trying to push myself and possibly making things work really isn’t a smart idea. Which I know, intellectually, is true. But it’s frustrating to have a good healthy habit and then have to deliberately break it because of something so seemingly inconsequential as a toe injury.
Even if said “inconsequential toe injury” has turned the entire nail bed of that toe an interesting blue-black from bruising.
So, because I’m feeling the frustration of being motivated and unable to act, I thought I’d talk about something my wife brought up as an idea – the question of why my “whys” motivate me. I was reluctant at first, because it seemed self-explanatory. But, the more I thought about it, the more sense it started to make. So, let’s recap my “whys”:
- I want to have a long, happy life with my wife.
- I want to be able to do things with my son.
- I don’t want to be fat.
- I don’t want to be diabetic.
- I don’t want to go blind.
Interestingly enough, the priority of these items has changed. When I first started this journey, number five (“I don’t want to go blind”) was my number one motivator. My mom is legally blind, partially because of diabetes (and partially because she’s really, really nearsighted), and I really don’t want to go down that road. So, as you might guess, number four (“I don’t want to be diabetic”) was originally number two. Then numbers one and two followed, because my original motivation was really selfish.
Curiously, number three wasn’t even on my list when I started. Why? Because I didn’t actually believe it was possible. I’ve been really, really overweight for so long that I just sort of assumed that I’d always be fat. Sure, I set a goal of losing 200 pounds when I started, but I didn’t believe it was possible. It’s why, when I got on a scale at an urgent care place some two or three weeks after starting, I was floored when I found I’d lost twenty pounds.
But I digress. Why do these things motivate me? well, let me get more specific with the question: what about this list of things has made me act, when historically I never followed through? I mean, look at them individually:
“I want to have a long, happy life with my wife”. You’d think this would be a motivator. I’ve been married for nearly 14 years, after all, so that’s been 14 years of life with my lover and my best friend. Why wouldn’t I want to get and stay healthy, so I could spend even more time with her? But, for some reason, it was never a sufficient reason on its own.
“I want to be able to do things with my son”. My son is five. He’s curious. He’s active. He wants me to play with him, all the time. He loves going to the park, and running through the woods, and running around the back yard, and running around the parking lot, and running in general. And even though he wears me out, I love spending time with him. And by the time he was three, I recognized that I wasn’t able to keep up with him at all, even though I wanted to. But, for some reason, this was never a sufficient reason on its own.
“I don’t want to be fat”. Well, yeah. I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror, and getting confronted with what I saw. But… that didn’t motivate me to do anything, other than avoid mirrors as much as possible. My legal residence may have been in Ohio, but I spent most of my time living in the State of Denial.
“I don’t want to be diabetic”, and “I don’t want to go blind”. These were early motivators, yes. But I can assure you that they wouldn’t have been enough on their own. I’ve had health scares before, and they’ve always gotten me motivated. For about… two weeks. And then I’d flop back down and return to the lovely little cottage I’d built on the banks of Denial. I’m positive that, on their own, the diabetes would have worked out the same way.
I think these whys motivate me because I have all of them, each feeding into the other. I was terrified of diabetes and possibly going blind, and that gave me the kick I needed to get started. But then, around the two week mark (as I mentioned above), I started to flag. But then the desire to have a long and happy life with my wife kicked in, because she really stepped up and helped keep me going when I was tired and achy and wanting to give up because of every reason I could come up with. She went walking with me, and kept cheering me on, and made sure I was supported until I could keep going on my own. And then, when I’d been at it a little longer and was beginning to feel a little frustrated because I didn’t perceive any changes (other than some weight loss, which somehow didn’t count because I was frustrated), I began to notice that I was doing a better job keeping up with my son.
Really, I don’t think that any one single “why” would have ever gotten me motivated. I needed all of them, so that there’s always be one of them keeping me motivated no matter what. And now I’ve got so many reasons to succeed – good reasons to succeed – that my little house on the banks of Denial doesn’t seem that attractive any more.