What's Your Why

What’s Your Why?

February 21, 2022

Motivation is fleeting. Habits last. When your motivation fails you, healthy habits are something you can fall back on. But when you are building your healthy habits, what happens if you lose motivation? What can you fall back on? The answer is a question: What's your “why”?

When you can truly connect to your purpose with clarity, it helps you find more meaning and fulfillment in the process of making incremental changes from day to day. Mastering one habit at a time starts the process moving forward, and sometimes that is the hardest step in every wellness journey.

What’s Your Why?

Today is a perfect day to think about your personal reasons for choosing healthier habits. What is your "why?" 

For some, it's about health - both physical and emotional. Some get their motivation from their family, or from wanting to create a good example for their children. For others, it’s about feeling energized or reversing the various co-morbidities associated with obesity. Whatever led you to your health journey in the first place is completely unique to you. The clearer you are with understanding your own "why," the easier it will be to stay connected to it. 

To be truly happy, healthy, strong, and fit, we must live according to our most deeply held values. When we don’t do what we believe or feel in our gut to be "right", we feel it in many ways. Our confidence wilts. Our energy drains. We get weak — in body, mind, and spirit. But when we live in alignment with our values, life (and, often, good health) begins to flow almost effortlessly. We get — and stay — strong and powerful.

Uncovering your true “why” takes some deep thought, introspection, and a level of self-awareness. It can take some time to truly dig down to the root of your purpose.

When working with clients, one of the first things I help them do is create some goals that can be the framework for our coaching relationship and activities. Before we can define goals, we first must drill into the bigger “why.”      

The 5 Whys

When thinking about starting anything new (like a nutrition or exercise program), an exercise called “The 5 Whys” is a great place to start. “The 5 Whys” was a system originally developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation as a problem-solving tool. On the surface, it’s very simple but it reveals our deep motivations of why we want something.

When you want to accomplish something, you ask one “why.”

“Why do I want to accomplish this?”

Then, whatever answer you come up with, ask why again. And so on, five times total. Get curious and embrace your inner 5-year old!

As you answer these questions be honest with yourself, be curious about what is beneath the surface, and be compassionate with yourself.

Here’s an example I sometimes use with my clients regarding weight loss:


Why are you looking to work with me as a coach?


I want to lose weight to be the same weight I was in high school.


Why do you want to be the same weight you were in high school?


Because I think I will look better.


Why do you want to look better?


Because I will feel better about myself.


Why do you want to feel better about yourself?


Because if I feel better about myself, I will be more assertive and confident.


Why do you want to be more assertive and confident?


Because I want to be more in control of my life and I want to be able to reach my potential in both work and at the gym.

You see from this example, this person’s “why” isn’t about chasing a size of jeans or a number on the scale. It’s bigger than that. It’s about changing a mindset and bigger picture achievements. By looping back to the beginning, I’d ask, “do you really need to lose weight to achieve this?”

Next, we’d explore more about what “reaching my potential” means, then go from there to refine even more. The 5 questions may not always be enough to clearly articulate the bigger picture, but using this technique will get you thinking more introspectively.

Digging deep can be scary territory, but it’s necessary, especially when tackling the root cause of complex problems or behaviors.

Life is always going to present challenges over the course of a wellness journey. Having a laser-sharp focus on why you are making lifestyle changes will help you keep on track. When you feel tired and don’t want to hit the gym, think of your why. When you are out for dinner and ordering off the menu, think of your why. When you feel yourself struggling and wanting to give up, think of your why.

One of my favorite “whys” (paraphrased with permission) was about losing 100 pounds so she could dance until she was 100. This wasn’t so much about the weight, but was about longevity and breaking away from a genetic predisposition for chronic illness later in life. It’s evolved along the way to be “seeking a century.”

Your “Why” Can Evolve

Your “why” can evolve over the course of your journey to a healthier life. As you progress, your mindset can shift, so staying connected to your “why” can sometimes mean refining it along the way. Sometimes you just need to be ready to dig that deep to identify your true passion and mission. Journaling along the way is a helpful tool for reflection and a great subjective measure of growth over time.

Now it's your turn. What’s your “why”? Dig deep and get to the core.

Marilyn Clark is a certified Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach and runs her website Off The Plate.

What's Your Why
Marilyn Clark


Marilyn Clark is a certified Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, a certified personal trainer, radical self-care advocate, an obesity survivor, a bariatric patient, and runs her website Off The Plate. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, a Level 1 Precision pro certified in Sports & Exercise Nutrition, & a personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer program! Read more articles by Marilyn!