Motivation: Find It by Connecting with Your “Why”

It’s no secret that I’m a runner who likes to chase big goals. Every day, I work hard to reach them and make a lot of sacrifices. Most days, I have faith that it will all be worth it, but sometimes, it’s harder. This year, after an emotional Spring, I started seeing my race times get slower instead of faster. I started losing hope that I’ll ever reach the goals I’ve set for myself. As my hope went, so did my motivation. I felt lost. What was the point of all that training if I could never reach the goals I was training for in the first place? Should I give up and cut my losses now?

Since running is such a big part of my life, I knew I needed help to sort this out. So I reached out to sport psychologist, Dr Simon Marshall, who suggested I reconnect with my “why”: the deep, emotional reasons why I run. While running to “stay active” or “because I like it” may be good, he explained, that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for the reasons that get me all choked up when I talk about them. As funny as it seems, after 6.5 years of running, I had never taken the time to really find out why. My motivation had mostly been to get faster, set new personal best times and, because of that, changed depending on how well (or not) I raced. I needed something that would keep me going, no matter what my race times were. I share my results below.

My “Why”

#1: I run to prove to myself that I’m strong.
I’m an abuse survivor. It’s not something I talk about much, but I’ve suffered abuse in more than my share of bad relationships. I always had to tiptoe around my abusers, never knowing what might set them off. I lived in fear and learned not to matter. As a result, I grew up into a person who felt very small, with no self-esteem, no self-love, no self-confidence. I was afraid of my own shadow and felt beaten down. I felt weak. Running has shown me that I’m capable of so much more than I think. It has helped me see that I have a whole lot of strength in me; that I’m actually a woman I can be proud of and who can inspire others. I never believed, in my wildest dreams, that I would ever become who I am today. I’m excited to see what my future still holds.
#2: I run to save my life.
I’m a recovering addict. Through the years I’ve been clean, I’ve seen many friends die from their addiction. I don’t want to die. Because exercise is great for treating mental illness, running is my lifeline. It helps me deal with feelings in a healthy way and keeps me sane (well, as sane as a person who likes to run 100k for fun can be!). I run for the friends I’ve lost because they can’t run anymore, ever. But I can. I’m still here and I want to stay here. So I run.
#3: I run to show others that they can.
I hope to show others who suffer from addiction or who are victims of abuse that, if they reach out for help, one step at a time, they also have the power to change their lives and become who they want to be. If I can do it, they can too. I want them to see that we’re not too “broken” to do great things. WE CAN. There is a better way. If I inspire just one person and it saves their lives, then it’s all worth it.
#4: I run to belong. 
Growing up, I had a hard time fitting in. I never seemed to do or say the right thing. I never felt like I was really wanted or belonged anywhere. Sadly, not long ago, I also had to take my distances from my immediate family. Being a runner gives me not only an identity, but also a community that I can be part of, where I feel accepted for who I am. I’ve made so many good friends through running. Runners support and encourage one another. We challenge each other. We understand each other. And we are there for one another – when things are good and when things aren’t. Above all, we are part of the same tribe, no matter what, no matter who we are. We are family.

Next steps

It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of why we started something. We get caught up chasing goals and we forget. Reconnecting with our “why” can help us get our motivation back when we’ve lost it. I will now post the reasons why I run on my fridge and, each time I see them, I will remind myself that they really are all that matters. These are with me forever, no matter what happens. They will keep me going when things aren’t going the way I’d hoped. No bad race result will ever change that.

My next task is to find a mantra that captures them and that I can use during workouts and races. Suggestions are welcome. I’d also love to hear your reasons “why” if you’d like to share!

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10 thoughts on “Motivation: Find It by Connecting with Your “Why””

  1. So raw!!

    My why… because I would t know what it’s like to not be fit. It’s pretty much been in engrained I to me since I was 10! It’s my ID- for better orfor worse! The fear of not being fit is too real 🙂

  2. This is very powerful Melanie, thank you for sharing your story and struggle. You are an inspiration- thoughtful, articulate, strong. My mantra for getting through tough times is “always forward”. It doesn’t always mean having a goal like a PB, sometimes it is just one foot in front of the other until the feet and brain remember the joy that comes with getting out the door and saying “I did it”.

    1. I love your comment and mantra! Yes, some days all we can do is just take the next little step forward and that is sometimes, in itself, an achievement. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I run for love.adventure. comradie.challenge.i just love you ..You are so cool an honest an inspir ing to so many . GREAT SUPPORT IS PARAMOUNT. IMPORTANT take the holistic approach

  4. I am happy to hear that running has improved both your mental and physical health and personal sense of well being . I think that physical activity, no matter what form it takes is for many people for the same reasons, varying degrees of improving both mental and physical health. We are so fortunate to have our health to enjoy an active lifestyle. Personally it is not chasing PB
    S or counting the number of races, it is the simplicity of being able to run that I truly appreciate I am able to still do.

    1. It’s definitely important to remember to be grateful for the little things. I just love your comment! So true. Thanks for sharing.

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