Two big components of my life are my FAITH and my FITNESS. I’ve been on both journeys long enough to realize there is a lot of overlap between the two. At the start of this new year many of us have goals pertaining to one or the other or both. I want to share some thoughts that are definitely helpful to me and will hopefully encourage you, too.
FIND YOUR “WHY”
Let’s start with this. Why are we doing the things we do? Why are we setting certain goals and seeking to improve or make progress in these areas of our lives? For me, and probably for you, a lot of our common behaviors are engrained, unconscious habits either learned or passed on from other people.
We do *this* because *this* is what we do.
It’s the generational equivalent of “Because I said so.”
But in order to make changes, I think we first need to have a good reason. We need a motivating factor. We need to find our WHY.
Maybe you have a goal to read through the Bible this year. Maybe your goal is to pray more or attend church more regularly. Maybe you have a pile of theology and Christian-living books piling up on your night stand that you need to churn through this year. These are all good things, but we have to evaluate WHY we feel the need to do these things in the first place.
It may help to ask the simple question “Why?” several times in a row like a toddler.
I want to read my Bible all the way through this year.
Because I know a lot of other people who are doing it.
Because that’s what good Christians do.
Because it’s the Word of God and it’s important to know God’s will.
The more times we ask the question the deeper we can get with our reasons. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is a recipe for failure and burnout. That’s why most people give up on their Bible reading goals by the time they hit Leviticus or Numbers.
When it comes to our religious practices and our faith journey there is a danger in just going through the motions. There is danger in complacency. There is danger in pride and vanity (i.e. doing things just for the “likes”). And there’s a danger in doing things just because everyone else is doing them.
I’m reminded of the story in John 6. Jesus had just fed the massive crowd with a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish. They were hooked. They were supposedly “all in.” They even followed Jesus (by foot) around to the other side of the lake. But Jesus knew they were just falling for the hype. They were jumping on the bandwagon. So Jesus challenged them with some weird and difficult teachings, and guess what…they all bailed like an eager Bible reader who hits the wall in Leviticus.
Because following Jesus is hard. He will rock your world if you let him. His teachings turn the world on its head. Being a Christian is truly easier said than done.
But then he turns to his closest followers who didn’t hop off the bandwagon when things got tough (at least not at that moment).
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69, CSB)
Peter (speaking for the disciples) had found his WHY. There was no Plan-B for him, this was it. He had nowhere else to go, no one else to follow. More than that, he knew Jesus had the words of eternal life when everyone else just had empty platitudes. Peter and the disciples knew who Jesus was and what he stood for, and they wanted in. They had no other options. This was it.
Jesus was their WHY.
So go ahead and follow that Bible reading plan. Set those prayer reminders on your phone. Actually get up and go to church more often this year. But if Jesus isn’t your WHY, then you may need to spend some time reevaluating your goals.
I’ve been going to the gym for several years now somewhat consistently. It’s so predictable and cliché, but the fitness center always gets a little more crowded this time of year. Lucky for me, by late January or mid February I’ll have the gym to myself again.
I really think most people miss out on their health and fitness goals because they don’t have a good WHY.
My doctor said I should lose weight. My mom makes rude comments. My clothes don’t fit right. I’m not as pretty or as shredded as the people I see on Instagram.
Pride, vanity, and even shame are terrible reasons for doing something. But those in the fitness industry know how to market diets and fitness programs by playing off our own insecurities. I mean, who wouldn’t want six-pack abs in only fifteen minutes a day? Who doesn’t want one simple method for destroying stubborn belly fat?
I appreciate what Simon Miller, one of the trusted fitness YouTubers I follow, says: In Health and Fitness, Health has to come first. We don’t become unhealthy overnight, and we won’t get shredded overnight either. We didn’t gain those fifteen pounds in a month (typically), and we won’t lose it in a month either.
If you’re on a journey of health and fitness, you need to find your WHY, and it needs to be a good WHY. Your WHY needs to be the reason you’re unwilling to give up when it gets tough or when you don’t feel like following through. Your WHY needs to be strong enough to overcome the hurdles of injury, sickness, or plateaus. For most of us, the arbitrary goal of “losing weight” isn’t enough. And if your WHY is purely aesthetic (i.e. just to look a certain way), that probably won’t be enough, either.
For me, I know my family has been plagued by high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and strokes. You better believe I’ve been paying attention to the latest research on what we can do to prevent these pitfalls or at least mitigate the risks. And I’ve also been paying attention to my parents’ and older siblings’ health and fitness journeys with their struggles and successes.
My WHY is motivated by my love for my family. I have two young, active sons. I want to not only be able to keep up with them, but I also want to model what a strong, healthy lifestyle can look like. And I want to grow old and gray with my wife, not just enjoying a quantity of years but quality years.
WRAPPING IT UP
When it comes to any goal, especially in relation to Faith and Fitness, you have to know your WHY. All of our goals, resolutions, and plans should flow out of that WHY. It’s the difference between the seeds scattered among the thorns and rocks versus the seeds taking root in the good soil (to borrow from another of Jesus’ stories – see Mark 4).
I believe it was Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning who basically made the case that we can overcome any WHAT if we have a good WHY. He was a Holocaust survivor who made it through a Nazi prison camp, so I trust his insights.
Maybe you’ve already set a goal. Maybe you’ve already broken your resolution. Maybe you’re already feeling the lack of motivation to keep going. Take some time this week to find your WHY. The payoff will be worth it.