Why are you not doing what you want to do? 5 questions that helped me to enjoy running again!

Around 18 years ago I enjoyed running, I got out of the habit, and have for many years been meaning to take it up again. I tried multiple times yet would always lose motivation & interest. Can you relate to this in an area of your life? Most of us could write a list of habits, behaviors, routines that we are wanting to incorporate and enjoy yet are unable to motivate ourselves without extensive willpower.

Thanks to trying out some NLP work and receiving some coaching I now run regularly, I achieved this without forcing myself or creating too much pressure, and I do it because I want to - even my wife will join me on the odd run now as she sees how much I like it. If you asked me 2 months ago if I run I would have answered "I want to but I just don't enjoy it. I used to love it years ago but it's not me anymore."

Asking 5 questions allowed me to understand my motivations, obstacles, and concerns. Take your time with each point, and be open to discovering new ideas about yourself. Some questions may take you 10 seconds to answer, others you can benefit from contemplating over several days. Chances are you will answer the questions differently for distinct contexts as well, in one setting such as work you may be confident, able to lead, and feel unstoppable yet the idea of giving a presentation at a conference frightens you.

1) How do you see yourself?

First off, let's talk identity. 'Who are you?' Take a minute to stop, and consider your answer before reading on..

Did you answer with what you do for hobbies, for work, what passions you have or behavioral traits? Are you a skier, poet, gentle soul, generous character, nuisance, male, comedian, teacher. Do you consider yourself to be athletic, selfish, adventurous, young, competitive, passionate about food, insecure, relaxed, determined..?

My answer would be "I'm a climber who loves spending time in nature, especially with my wife & dog. I have worked mostly in the hospitality industry, and am a social character who enjoys experiencing new cultures and sharing life's adventures."

Taking the time to discover how you identify is well worth while, as it is a starting base to creating well aligned, congruent goals and motivation strategies. How would you respond if I suggested that none of these circumstances, behaviors, beliefs, or roles are your true identity? If I stopped climbing, if I quit my job, became anti-social, and now despise traveling I would still be me - I just have not explored that side of me yet.

2) What are you trying to achieve?

Of course I wanted to go running regularly, but this is not a well defined outcome. I needed to identify what am I running for - how should I feel before, during & after. Do I want to force myself to put my shoes on, run around the block out of breath, and come back frustrated..? Absolutely not! I was not interested in pushing my physical limits, or using extensive willpower to force myself - I wanted to go running because I enjoyed it. I decided my goal was to run for the fresh air, to connect with nature, have fun with my dog, and take some time to myself - to begin with it was not about distance, speed, fitness or performance in any way. I wanted to create a safe, non-judgmental, relaxing environment to run for the above reasons. Ultimately, I would like to go faster, further and higher, but I know that comes with practice.

3) What is stopping you?

I knew how to run - I was physically capable. Even though, in my opinion, I could not run far without being out of breath, this is all relative (who are you comparing yourself to?) some of you may actually consider me to be quite a strong runner, others may laugh at my lack of stamina & endurance. More important than what others think, is what do I think a runner is.

I was sure I wanted to run - I enjoyed watching and hearing about people running, and I often told friends I wanted to take up running again.

So what is stopping me? Myself! I am my harshest critic. It turns out every time I went running I was focusing on how bad at running I was - I should be running faster, harder, and further.. this motivation strategy was not working for me. It created a misalignment between my identity and my motivations, and simply re-enforced the idea that running is not for me. Put simply I did not think I was a good runner, so I did not run.

When looking at motivational strategies it can be very helpful to also look at your language patterns as well. Just because I 'want' to run, does not mean I will run - every person is different but I tend to leave things until I 'need' or 'have' to do them. I know this because I leave my studying until the day before the exam, I don't fix a loose handle until it is nearly broken, I won't pack for a holiday until 1 hour before I leave.. none of these are necessarily the best decisions for me, it just so happens that is how I have learnt to motivate myself in the most effective manner. I took out a pen & paper to finish the sentence "I need to run because...." and filled in as many blanks as I could. This helped me to align my language with my motivational strategies.

4) How is your desire to change going to be greater than your desire to remain the same?

A very powerful question! By this point I realized I don't run because I am protecting myself, i'm doing it deliberately for a positive intention I was unaware of. I didn't like feeling I am not good at something, it doesn't feel good to be disappointed in myself. In my younger years I used to love pushing myself hard, and was very competitive. I know now that I have changed, yet my motivational strategies had not - I was still trying to encourage myself in the same way that worked for me as a teenager.

I took some time to think about it and decided to try going out with no expectations on distance or speed, I did not even take a watch, and I would run at whatever pace I was comfortable with, even if that meant walking. I would focus my attention on breathing the fresh air, looking out for new routes, appreciating the peace, and having fun with my dog. I think my first days were probably around 800 meters and took about 10 minutes but this did not bother me, because performance was not where my attention was directed. After a week or so I noticed myself running further, finding my rhythm, and feeling more energized.

5) Do your goals feel well aligned & congruent?

Is there any reluctance, uncertainty or anything holding you back? If there is don't push those thoughts aside or try to over-rule them, let your concerns be heard! 'Negative' emotions are strong motivators, and drivers for change - they are looking out for your best interests. Once I felt well-aligned, I noticed it was not only easy to motivate myself to go running, but I actually looked forward to it. So much so that I realized after 2 weeks I had ran every single day without forcing myself once - rain, snow or sun. Of course some runs were longer than others, some days I felt tired, other times I found an unstoppable rhythm, however each day I enjoyed it because I had motivators to run that were unaffected by my performance, mood, or energy levels.

Before I knew it I had ran every single day for a month, I didn't deliberately make this a goal - but I now call myself a runner and am happy for it!

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