Why You Need a Purpose Bigger Than Yourself in Order to Reach Your Goals
We all know people (for many of us, it’s ourselves) who have tried a new diet, a new exercise plan, a new schedule, a new routine, a new “habit”, or a new anything in hopes of transforming their lives and becoming healthier, happier people.
Unfortunately, more often than not, the new thing that is meant to make us so much better as a person often fails, making us feel not better, but worse.
The diet that we start on Monday, telling ourselves we will stick to for the rest of our lives, ends with a sugar binge on Friday (or sooner). Getting up at four thirty to go to the gym ends in our total exhaustion and sleeping in one day, and then another and another and another. The goal of spending less time on social media and more time with real live people ends in frustration when we don’t feel up to taking the time for anyone else.
We’ve all been there! We all know how it feels to want something so very badly, but feel completely incapable of ever making a real and lasting change.
Why is Positive Change so Very Hard?
There are a lot of reasons why our brains and bodies struggle to implement change. Even when our mind is committed to something, often our brain has a whole lot more trouble getting on board!
Willpower is not Enough
Even the most mentally strong, determined, and disciplined among us eventually run out of willpower. We simply can’t do anything that is very difficult for a long time, without a greater reason to continue. A reason that is greater than ourselves. A reason that is so strong, it can and will break the bounds of habit and the brain’s pathways, to create new habits and pathways.
But before we talk about reasons that are strong and big enough to help us reach our goals, we need to go over a couple reasons that are NOT enough.
We Have the Wrong Reasons
First of all, the number one reason that is not enough to keep us on the right track long term is ourselves. As much as we all have our own best interest in mind, we also have a very strong desire to be comfortable and to stay where we are.
Even if we don’t feel like we are comfortable or content with our status quo, our brains are. In other words, our brains function hugely off of habits and patterns and what they know. And, whether we like it or not, our brains are very, very powerful. More so than the desire to be thinner or in better shape or get up early every day. This is why pleasing ourselves is not reason enough to propel us toward change.
In spite of what most everyone says (and what we see all over social media), we should not just do what makes us happy and be “true to ourselves” at the expense of what anyone else thinks or needs or wants. Yes, it is true that we can’t please everyone and that people pleasing should not be our motivator; but at the same time, doing things for others and meeting other people’s needs is a much bigger, better, and more inspiring reason to change than is merely making ourselves happy.
Another reason that is not enough to sustain positive change is the desire to impress others or make a name for ourselves or look good on Instagram.
Find a Real Reason That You are Committed To
Instead, healthy, long-term change happens when we have a reason - a real reason - to be different, and when we are so committed to that reason, and believe in it so much, that it outweighs the temporary (and usually very difficult) setbacks that our body and brain (and many people) will inevitably throw at us when we try to change.
Maybe that reason for you is getting in shape so that you can hike with your grandkids and enjoy the relationships that are a part of that. This will get you much farther than just wanting to look good at the beach will.
Maybe you generally don’t feel well, and you are trying to get your health back so that you can be around to see your daughter’s wedding or your son’s graduation, or to enjoy retirement with your spouse. Any one of these reasons will get you a lot farther that if you only want to feel better for the sake of feeling better.
Serving God and Others
I am a Christian, and my biggest motivator and inspiration for anything I do is my desire to please God and live in such a way that He is glorified and that others come to know Jesus through my life and example. This is the main reason I do anything to implement change in my life. And this is the reason that gets me where I know I need to be.
Trying to create a new habit or reach a goal doesn’t happen for me if my only incentive is making myself happy.
But when my big reason is to be a better example to someone else; or to be healthier so that I can, Lord willing, be present for my husband and family; or to exercise regularly so that I have the strength and energy to do my daily work and help out other people - then I have sufficient motivation to continue on the path to becoming the best I can be.
Serving and loving others is always a good reason to make changes in your life. I like to eat healthy because I feel way better when I do; but I am even more motivated to eat healthy when I know that my body will look and feel it’s best, so that I can be a better wife, friend, and example to others.
Creating Real, Long-Term Change
So, while there are many who spend lots and lots of time on personal development and growth so that they can be the person they want to be, the people who succeed the most and create the most effective long-term habits are the ones who have a reason that is bigger than themselves. Bigger than any physical pain or inconvenience. And bigger than what others will think of them. Because even if we are changing to win the approval of others, often others will downplay and discourage our efforts (even if they don’t consciously intend to).
Will we have the fortitude to keep going when it feels like everything is against us? Only if our reason is big enough!