Connecting to "the WHY"


January is a big month in fitness. It’s the month where new resolutions are made; new and ambitious goals are defined.

It doesn’t take long for most of us to break our commitment to those resolutions. In fact, 80% of New Year’s fitness resolutions fail by mid-February.  

As part of my Bespoke protocol, I personally and periodically check in with clients during those first crucial weeks of the year --and throughout--to get a sense of how they’re coming along with those resolutions, and to work with them to see what can be done to maintain their level of commitment, and, naturally, adherence.

During these January check in sessions, I am asked a lot of the same questions by clients with different fitness goals, most of them related to the stress that comes with motivation-- as in, how to keep on keepin' on, as the year progresses; and as enthusiasm for the new challenges begins to wane.

Connecting to ‘the why’ is an inner process. It’s more than just knowing the reasons why you want to be fit — it’s being aware of the reasons that have evolved from inside of you.

I’ve posed some of those same questions to sports psychology trainer Rachel Lavin who has done wonders to help me stick to my personal goals (trainers need trainers, too, you know). I wanted to know:

Why do we set goals for ourselves in the first place? Should we treat our life like a business plan? Do we really want to reach these goals, or is there something holding us back in spite of what we tell ourselves, and others?

“We set a goal for ourselves because we believe that there will be rewards in its achievement, that we will feel better in the having of what we want,” Rachel told me.

“Those rewards are the good feelings you get in the doing; the feeling good about yourself and the overall sense of wellbeing.”

Much of what Rachel believes is rooted in a basic and powerful belief:  That actions must be grounded in a purpose- the WHY.  “Connecting to ‘the why’ is an inner process. It’s more than just knowing the reasons why you want to be fit — it’s being aware of the reasons that have evolved from inside of you.  It’s more experiential and less intellectual. It’s making something important to you.”

The operative word for Rachel is “making”--creating, in other words.  “Some people wait for a feeling of motivation to hit them like a bolt of lightning.  Others think the way to get motivated is through negative self-talk, but the truth is that if your WHY is strong (stronger than your desire for that carrot cake for example), your motivation with grow exponentially.”

As for adherence, the stick to-it-ness of it all, Rachel offered a twofold perspective:

“First, people may experience some inner resistance.  It helps to have the courage to explore what that may be telling you.  Whatever the symptom of this resistance may be, there may be a greater underlying issue at heart.  Whatever the issue may be, one needs to take a curious stance as opposed to a judgmental one.  As soon as we judge ourselves harshly, all insight and understanding is interrupted."

Rachel continued: “ I say, let’s look at ourselves more with wonder and less with negative judgment. Acceptance of self is the solution that will enable us to move through the problems we face.”

The second part of the Rachel’s perspective: the tactics a client has chosen may be ill-fitted to his or her needs. This is where Bespoke Fitness comes in.  Since everybody is different, the tactics of our program design are customized for each person, and easily tweaked and refined for ever shifting needs, and challenges.

Rachel’s beliefs are not only positive, they are a healthy contradiction to the decidedly American notion that the only measures of success are faster! and stronger! in conventional ways; and being highly critical of ourselves if and when we fail.

Motivation is the energy that drives discipline. Discipline is the action part of the equation, which fuels motivation.

Certainly, she is encouraging all of us to rethink how we engage with the very idea of a New Year’s resolution--what it is, what it can be.  It also opens up new ways to think about ourselves, and what we call “success.”

This brings us back to motivation: what is it, really, and how do we summon it when it’s time to design new ways of achieving of our fitness goals?   

“Motivation is the energy that drives discipline,” Rachel said. “Discipline is the action part of the equation, which fuels motivation.” For example, if your goal is to get up and work out at the gym and you go even if you don't feel like it, you’re actually training yourself to be more disciplined when it comes to managing your health and wellness.

“NIKE was really into something essential when they created the slogan ‘Just do it,’” Rachel noted. And she’s right: Nothing motivates like doing.

When clients tell me that they are not in the mood to workout, I tell them to start moving their bodies--run, walk, stretch, do yoga or lift weights, for at least 10 minutes.  If, after 10 minutes, they still don’t feel like exercising, then I tell them to quit. Of course, after 10 minutes of  light, any activity, the body is wide awake and raring to go for another 10--or more. That’s why no one ever tells me "I bailed after 10 minutes".  Most often, they are extra fired up to push on through the workout.


Clearly, moving IS doing.  And, as Rachel reminded me, "Small actions can have a huge impact on the larger goal.  Which is why it’s so important to break down goals into small, manageable pieces.”

In other words, if you want to lose 20 pounds, the action plan starts by doing what you need to do to lose 1 pound first, or work on your nutrition one day at a time.

Now, with a newly excavated WHY,  and a license to celebrate each and every small success along the way, how can we possibly get derailed from our goals?   

Rachel Lavin is a sport psychology trainer.  She blends her education as a psychotherapist with her education as a fitness trainer helping people overcome their obstacles to success.  In addition to her work as a trainer, she teaches Girl's Fight Club at Studio DelCorpo Thursdays starting in March.  To contact Rachel:  or 773.251.7874.   For more information on Girl's Fight Club, email