4 Important Steps to Help Cultivate Your Why | Bree Shields
Uninspiring and generic are the words that come to mind when I revisit that first “why” when starting my journey to better health. Losing weight was important, but I hadn't dug deeply enough to ask myself why losing weight held such high value. In pursuit of my why, I began to notice a struggle I couldn’t shake—nothing was sticking. I tried to eat healthier, only to return to old habits that put me two steps back. I tried working out, but after the newness wore off, so did my commitment to exercise. I made a few attempts at self-care, but my life was not transforming. I began to question why I couldn't break the cycle. I feared it would always be that way.
Through setbacks and lack of a compelling why, I continued to get back up and give bettering my health several more goes because I knew in my gut that if I could overcome this struggle, the trajectory of my life would change. In Peter Docker’s podcast interview from InDependent’s 2019 Military Spouse Wellness Summit, he states that when we are in the beginning stages of figuring out our why, it often resides as a feeling inside of us and it is when we can articulate our why that we begin to use it as a filter for what we chose to do.
At the end of 2017, I found myself on empty and my why soon became loud and clear. My husband had been wounded on his tour to Afghanistan, which left us fighting for his life and our marriage. We began navigating PTSD and hunted feverishly for the resources needed to bring healing to our family. Health, energy, and hope were depleted. I remember feeling like the girl I used to be was trapped inside and I wanted her back. My heart longed to feel her spirit again and that became my first deeply-connected why. As a military spouse, it’s easy to feel like there is not much we have control over, but I felt like my power was restored once I solidified my why and took charge over my health.
Here are the things I now know are important for cultivating your why:
1. Ask yourself, “But why?”
Ask yourself “But why?” just like a child would. If I would have asked myself “But why?” when choosing weight loss to motivate me, it could have helped me to get to the root and stay the course more easily. Many of you will say your children are your why, but Peter Docker reminds us that we were individuals before them and we will be after they are gone. Keep digging and ask yourself, “But why am I wanting to do this for my children?”
2. Get specific about your why.
What does your why look like, act like, and feel like. Who do you show up as and what choices do you make when you are using your why as a filter? I did not spend enough time clearly visualizing my why. When I add in those details, my ability to walk toward my specific vision becomes increasingly stronger.
Consistently reflecting on our why is important for a few reasons. It allows our fire to be reignited on a tough day, it becomes the filter through which we make choices, and it allows us to see the progress we have made. Seeing progress is one of those areas we love to brush off, but we have to give ourselves some grace and acknowledge where we have come from. We don't have to be at the finish line of our goals to celebrate.
4. Share your why.
I believe the worst lie we can believe is that we are alone. Chances are someone else out there shares the same why you do and when you start to build like-minded community, I find it much easier to stay the course. Share your why and see what happens. Benefits may include: mentorship from those in the space you one day long to be in, inspiring others to create their own why, and deeper support versus friends/family asking you to veer away “just this once.”
Having a deeply personal why now serves me in all seasons of life, but most of all in the hard times. In the past, it was so easy for me to throw caution to the wind when I was in the midst of difficulty. My attitude was that I deserved it because I was struggling. Now, I allow my why to anchor me. When a storm comes, I hold on to that specific picture I've painted over and over. I revisit my new habits formed through the filter of my why, and most of all I carry more hope because I can see what lies ahead—my why.
Bree is a dog mom to her German Shepherd “CC” and Boston Terrier “Cooper,” a veteran wife and advocate, and a Whole30 certified coach. She has a natural energy and enthusiasm for life that is palpable. Bree combines her artistic background, military experiences, and family and human development studies to pass along tools that aid in life management, creating a sense of hope as people find community and begin investing in themselves. She creates the space that says all are welcome and has a passion for making the journey to better health one that is enjoyable and uses the Whole30 as a tool to do so. Bree believes that being healthy is multifaceted and enjoys educating people about mental, physical, and spiritual health.