How to Achieve Your Goals, Part II: Ask the Right Question

What do you think the most important question is when striving to reach your goals?  Do you think you should focus on what your goal is or how you plan to achieve it?  I propose that those are the wrong questions to ask.  Want to know what I think the most important question is?  Then, please read on …

In my reading and personal experience, I believe that the most important question that we need to keep in front of us when we are trying to achieve a goal is why that goal is important to us.  Unfortunately, sometimes that is also the hardest question to ask and takes some real, honest soul-searching.  If you are willing to do the work and keep that motivation in front of you, though, it will help you stay focused and motivated to reach your goal.

In my last post, (you can read part one, by clicking here), I talked about my goal of running a 5k in a competitive time.  Let’s unpack that goal again today as we look at the right questions to ask to stay focused on this goal.  If I was to use the what as motivation each morning as I get to the gym, I would be thinking ” I am going to run a 5k in the fall.”  But that fact, in and of itself has no motivational value whatsoever.  That fact is merely a date on the calendar, nothing more or less.  Many people have failed at their goals because they just focus on that date on the calendar.  Sure, it is a reminder that may spur me on as it gets closer, but the fact itself is not motivational.

Ok, what about focusing on the how?  Since I am a natural rule-follower and like to check things off a list, this has a little more motivational power for me.  I post my running plan on the refrigerator and like to mark it off everyday.  Not checking it off is a sense of failure for me.  But if you unpack that statement you will find that the motivation is really not in the how but in my perfectionist personality.  The how of the plan is just what I need to get through to check it off from the list.

whySo, let’s look at the why.  Why do I want to run a 5k in a competitive time?  On the surface, it is because I want to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle.  That is a noble and correct why.  But, even that might not be motivation enough to run the six and a half minute mile.  Why did I put those details in the goal, when there are lots of fit and healthy people who can’t run a 5k in under 20 minutes?  When I start digging deeper, then it becomes personal.  When, I take the time to honestly evaluate that question, I see that I was a very competitive runner in middle school and high school.  I enjoyed competing and often placed very high, winning a lot of races.  I liked winning and it gave me a real sense of accomplishment.  I want to feel that sense of competing and winning again.

There is a danger of being judged when we acknowledge the real “why” behind our goals.

It actually makes me feel very vulnerable to admit this.  In today’s “everyone’s a winner” mentality, some may think that this is a selfish reason.  People may judge me as vain and wanting to feel better than others.  I can hear the argument that life shouldn’t be selfish and I should focus on helping others, not beating them.

I do believe that life should be focused on helping others.  When it comes to self-improvement, though, isn’t that, but definition, about ourselves?  Maybe we need to become ok with admitting our seemingly selfish inner why without feeling guilty about it.  We can say the politically correct reason of why we want to lose weight, “because I want to be healthy, blah, blah, blah.”  But, admit it, we really want to lose weight so we can look amazing in our skinny jeans.  What … you won’t admit that out loud?  Even if we don’t feel that we have permission to be completely honest and vulnerable about our inner why to others, let’s be honest with ourselves. That inner why is the only thing that will keep you motivated long enough to achieve your goal. Click To Tweet

Do you agree with me or do you think I am selfish and vain?  Please let me know below…

  • I loved that you actually covered the Important Question to Ask and the why. I am glad that you put it in a personal story and that you covered the challenges.. judgement that its “wrong”. Funny how now it’s wrong to be right. Crazy! That’s insane.

    1. I’m learning that we should always be asking the “why” behind what we do. It does change our choices.

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