It may be tempting to wake up one morning and declare, “I will do 1,000 crunches this day, and every morning, until I have six-pack* abs!” But we know how that will go. You may do the crunches for a day, or two, or maybe even a few weeks, but eventually your will to crunch will leave before your hardened abs arrive. You will probably blame yourself for this, go into a self-comforting habit (for me it’s a highly unreasonable amount of time binge watchings shows that hold no interest to me) and then feel so horrible that you soon wake with yet another unrealistic fitness resolution. This is not a healthy cycle, and not a good way to be kind to yourself. So instead of starting with random goals you pluck from the air, why not go about this in a more holistic way?
Before you can set goals, you need a vision. Before you can imagine a vision, you need a purpose.
“Purpose” is quite a lofty word, but it has a lofty place in our lives! Often people ask, “What is my purpose?” when they really mean, “What can I do with my time that’s important?”
That is the essence of purpose: what is important to you?
I’m talking about important in the big sense— not just, “It’s important that my house is clean” or “It’s important that I do a good job on this presentation” which are good goals to have, but (hopefully) not the driving force of your life.
Purpose-Important looks more like this:
“It is important to me to encourage people”
“It is important to me to solve interesting problems”
“It is important to me to create things”
Purpose relates to your whole life; it is what guides you to spend your time in one activity as opposed to another. It’s usually pretty consistent from one year to the next. I think of purpose as the top of a ladder: the place you are always headed.
The rungs of the ladder (vision) and how you climb it (mission) will change over time, and we’ll talk about those in future posts. But before we can even think about climbing up the ladder we need to find our purpose. It’s so much easier to continue with any goal, fitness or otherwise, if you have a sense of why you’re doing it, and a connection to what is really important to you, deep down.
So, let’s start with a purpose statement, and the rest will follow.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help discover your purpose. I’ve also included my own answers as an example, and to help you understand where I’m coming from. Take a few days to mull them over — it’s hard to think about your whole life when we mostly live day-to-day. Answer these thoughtfully, and see what you discover:
As a child, what was the thing you LOVED to do? What made you rush home from school?
Whatever that thing was, how did it make you feel? And are you still doing it? Or something similar, perhaps?
For me, it was dance. I was a really shy kid, I wouldn’t leave my mum’s side until well into primary school. I think if I was a kid today I would be diagnosed as a very anxious child, everything in my life had to be thought out and done right. But going to dance classes was a big thing for me—being able to move like that was a huge release. I wasn’t worried when I was dancing, I just did it because I enjoyed it.
What creates flow for you?
“Flow” is the state of being so involved in a task that you lose all sense of time and place. You look up from the task and think, “What? Lunchtime already?!” What creates flow for you? What things do you lose yourself in?
The things that give me flow change over time, but at the moment it’s programme writing. I can lose myself planning all the things that go into running a fitness session for clients and members: what we’re going to focus on, what exercises to choose, the best way to do things, potential variations. I make sure to intersperse the mundane tasks with these sessions of flow, to make my day more exciting.
It’s your last year on earth. You can do anything you like. What will you do?
Anything! Sky’s the limit. Well, a year is the limit. Would your life look different from how it is now?
Assuming in this scenario that we are not in COVID lockdown, I’d go live in New York City. And, honestly, I would just keep doing what I’m doing now, because I like my life. I’d keep teaching fitness, spreading body positivity messages, showing people that they’re worth something. I’d just do all this in New York!
You are a superhero. How are you going to save the world?
What are you putting your cape on for? Truth? Justice? Saving the planet? Helping those in need? Maybe just encouraging others to live their best life? If you could help in an extraordinary way, what kind of help would you give?
For me, I realised I want everyone to feel worthy and loved. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt throughout my adolescence and early adulthood: worthless. I want people to know they are perfect as they are right now— and don’t need to change on the inside or outside to matter. That is a big part of my purpose. So much of what I do comes from that fundamental desire to make people feel seen and loved.
Finding your purpose isn’t easy, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. Sit with it for a bit, and give yourself time to figure it out. Once you get that purpose, you’ll be amazed how goal setting is going to work.
Oh, and by the way, your purpose will probably have nothing to do with fitness. But your fitness has a LOT to do with your purpose. If you want to keep your fitness manageable, consistent and relevant for years to come, start there.
We’ll take the next step in next week’s post!
* Just a side note: a six-pack is quite useless. Your core muscles, the ones doing all the work for you, are much deeper. They aren’t as visible, but are much more important!