What’s your “why?”
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
For someone who has a high value for wellness, I want to be clear about what I believe the objective of wellness is. Wellness is not the reason we live. We have to have a greater sense of purpose or a “why” behind what we’re doing to ultimately be effective.
There are many people who pursue wellness for the wellness in itself. I’d like to propose to you that wellness does not bring fulfillment any more than money does. (Though it does indeed contribute a bit more happiness because of the endorphins and biological responses, but that is another post for another day!). Those who make it to their weight, strength, or other physical goals often gain a number of other things that are incredible. It is those benefits that are the often the “why,” not the wellness in of itself.
For example, the woman who loses 100 pounds has literally changed her life. No one would question this and often this individual is thrilled with the results. But if you dig deeper you’ll find that this individual speaks about a number of things. They might say “I lost 100 pounds but what really happened is that my relationships, enjoyment of life, energy, and my ability to live with purpose are so much different.” What we see is that wellness is merely a means to an end.
In fact, what we know is that when the pursuit of health gets out of place in our lives a number of pathologies can occur. For example, while not a formally recognized diagnosis, those in the eating disorder arena have begun to use the term “orthorexia nervosa” to describe the individual who has such a fixation on healthy eating that the rest of their world suffers (N, 2018). Eating healthy, weight loss, organic vegetables, or whatever the goal is becomes such a fixation that our relationships, our purpose, our delight in life is diminished. Food, exercise, and health related things are designed to be a delight to us, nourishing, and we should have a sense of freedom or empowerment in our wellness decisions. For example, someone who has knowledge of healthy eating who feels empowered might attend a social gathering with “unhealthy food” without feeling shame, guilt, or paranoia about what will be offered. We’d hope that this individual could laugh, enjoy the party, and connect deeply with those who are there, regardless of the food. The food might be an afterthought. If they eat something outside of what they’d typically eat we’d hope that they would not go into a shame spiral but might say, “wow, that was a great cookie” or “cookies don’t taste as good as they used to” and then they’d move on. If they feel sick the next day, we’d just hope that they’d notice how their body responds to the foods they ate. They might also feel empowered and free to choose what is life bringing to them at the party. Regardless, we’d hope that the food or pursuit of health wasn’t the consuming factor in these social interactions. This is what freedom can look like and it is available. If reading this description is describing your challenges, feels shaming, or triggering for you in some way I encourage you to be honest with yourself, give yourself an ounce of compassion, and then consider that freedom and a more abundant, vibrant life is available for you. There is hope and changing things in your internal world is possible.
What we find is that when health is in it’s proper place individuals who pursue healing, wellness, or optimization magnify their impact on the world and in their relationships. They enjoy life more deeply, with a vibrancy, and vitality. A journey to wellness is often not an easy one and may take years. We might have low energy, depressed mood, or chronic pain. We might have friends and family who discourage us or who actively oppose our changes. The journey can be lonely and feel hopeless at times. How can we sustain such a long term challenge? Only if we have a why.
Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'. Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (2006)
Today I want you to consider what your “why” is. In reality, I’d recommend knowing your “why” for anything you do. Why do you go to work? Why clean the kitchen? Why spend time with friends? Why are you here on earth? What is your purpose? What makes life meaningful? If answering these questions is hard I’d encourage you to talk to someone about that. Healing, hope, and purpose can be found. And if you’re looking to make a life change or pursue healing, I’d ask you to consider your “why.” What’s the point? When I work with individuals on a personal basis this is so central to our work because without their “why” life becomes meaningless, our time is not as beneficial for them as it could be, and change is not sustainable. Before you begin your wellness journey, or before you do anything, take some time to find your purpose. Once you find that answer, write it down, read it every day, and remind yourself where you’re headed and WHY.
Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man's Search for Meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
N. (2018, February 22). Orthorexia. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/orthorexia