Fitness Goal Setting: The Importance of Knowing your “Why”

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: June 10, 2021

CATEGORIES: Goals and Motivation

Knowing your “why” is an extremely important and often overlooked factor in setting goals for health and fitness. So what is your why? We’ll get to that shortly, but for now you need to know that it’s a crucial component for fitness goal setting, and for setting and achieving goals in other areas of your life.

Do you want to exercise because you understand how great you will feel physically and mentally as a result of a regular regime? But do you struggle with getting into a habit or feeling motivated enough to continue in the long term?

You might be missing the “why” part of the puzzle. Knowing your “why” needs to be a part of your fitness goal setting process. You need to check that your personal fitness goals have enough “depth” and that you want to achieve them badly enough. Understanding your “why” is a big part of setting fitness goals and achieving them.

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Help with fitness goal ideas and setting realistic workout goals

Before we go on, I just want to check that you have already set some personal fitness goals for yourself? Whether you’ve recently set your goals or are already working towards them, take yourself through the SMARTER goal setting process to transform your goals from vague to crystal clear. (You’ll also find SMART fitness goals examples and more).

If you haven’t thought of any goals yet, then Take this FREE 12-question quiz to discover which area of your life you should focus on. Plus, receive realistic goal suggestions just for you, based on your results. This is for you if you’re still at the brainstorming phase of how to set fitness goals. It’s not specifically a fitness goal setting questionnaire, but you can use it to decide on goals for any areas of your life that are important to you.

If you’ve already got yourself sorted with some great workout goals, then read on.  We’re going to take a deeper look at how important your personal fitness goals really are to you.

‘Knowing your why’ is so important for fitness goal setting

Finding your “why” for fitness and health, or to find your purpose in general, forces you to think about your core values and what you are passionate about. As thought leader Simon Sinek explains in his “start with why” model, the vast majority of people think first about the “what”, then the “how, and finally the “why”.

When you change your approach and start with “why”, the “how” and “what” will fall into place because you’ve started with your core beliefs at the center of the process. This creates a solid foundation from which to take inspired actions that will lead towards you achieving your goals.

When you’re thinking about your health and fitness, first consider why it is important for YOU to exercise. What is your “why”? You must have a strong enough long-term emotional reason to be successful in achieving your personal fitness goals.  Otherwise, it’s unlikely you will put in the required planning, preparation, time, and work required for success. For example, a goal of “losing weight” needs to have a personal, emotional driver behind it to determine that it is important enough to achieve and maintain.

Find your why and take your fitness goal setting to a deeper level

If weight loss is your goal, keep asking yourself why you want to lose the weight.  Eventually, you will get to the deep-seated pain you want to avoid and/or pleasure you want to seek.

Your first answer to ‘why’ losing weight is important could be “I want to exercise three times per week to lose weight so I can feel fit and healthy”.

This is not strong enough. Why do you want to be fit and healthy?

“I want to lose weight so I can keep up with my kids, feel confident about my body, and can avoid having any more heart scares”.

You’re getting closer to finding your why for wanting to lose body fat or extra pounds now. Ask yourself again why the above reason is important…

“I want to lose weight because when I had the heart scare a few weeks ago I was terrified that my kids might grow up without a dad.  I felt terrible that I would play a role in that outcome by failing to look after my health.” (Pain avoiding).

See how much emotion and feeling is really behind that original goal?

Why is fitness important to you? Why is goal setting so important? These are a couple of general questions to ask yourself along with the deep “why” questions behind your specific goal.

What is my why? Pain avoiding or pleasure seeking?

The previous example of knowing your “why” was based on the concept of “pain avoiding”. Avoiding some sort of pain is usually the strongest type of emotional driver. This is also called “away” motivation. You’ll likely focus on positive thoughts and actions to take you closer towards your health and fitness goals. But that doesn’t mean that the true, deep driver (your “why”) hasn’t stemmed from something negative. It’s not a bad thing if it’s going to push you forward to live your best life.

Whilst it often doesn’t have the same sort of strength and power behind it, some people respond better to look at the “why” behind their fitness goal setting in a positive way.  This type of motivation is also called “towards” motivation. The underlying focus is on what you really want for your life. Here is an example.

“I want to be alive, fit, healthy, and full of energy at each of my children’s 50th birthdays, and to know I have been there as a positive, healthy role model throughout their lives.” (Pleasure seeking)

Of course, knowing your “why” may well include both pain avoiding and pleasure seeking elements. Unless you have considered these on a deep level before, you probably still need to do some soul searching and question asking to answer the question “what is your why?”

How to know your why

Let’s simplify finding your why with a basic step-by-step process:

  • Brainstorm your values, passions and strengths

    Take a journal or something else you can use to record your thoughts about what is really important to you. List your most important values in life, because they form the basis for your beliefs, and in turn, the action you’ll take towards achieving your health and fitness goals. Write down the things you are passionate about, and love doing. Where do your strengths lie? u003cbru003eu003cbru003eAlthough you might not think your general strengths in life relate to your health and fitness goals, over time you’ll learn how they will play a role in taking you closer to your goals. By starting to take stock of what’s really important to you, you’ll begin to see where your health and fitness goals fit into that picture.

  • Look into the past and the future

    Look back into your past to a time when you felt much fitter and healthier. Can you identify what some of the contributing factors were that helped you achieve that state of health and wellness? What aspects of your life made it easier for you to achieve your goals then? Was it the people you were surrounding yourself with, a better work-life balance that allowed you more space in life, or something else? u003cbru003eu003cbru003eNow look forward to your future. What do you envision for your health, fitness, happiness, and lifestyle? In 1 year? How about 5 years, or 30 years? Again, write the answers to these questions down in a journal. They’ll help you to clarify the vision of what you want and why it’s important to you. You’ll soon be able to realize whether the fitness goals you’re setting for yourself are truly in line with your life’s purpose

  • Ongoing awareness and actions

    After your initial brainstorming and contemplation, make sure you have a plan for some ongoing actions that are going to keep you connected to your u0022whyu0022 for achieving your health and fitness goals. Perhaps you feel inspired to create a vision board that reminds you of all the things that make you feel excited, are important to you, and take you closer to your long-term vision. Once you know your u0022whyu0022 find ways to remind yourself about it. You might choose to simply write it out once each day in your journal. Or you could post it in prominent places where you can see it, read it, or just let it sink into your subconscious mind each day.


When you’ve got a really strong, clear reason for achieving your goals, you’ve taken the first step towards achieving them. If your overall u0022whyu0022 statement conjures up a lot of emotion when you read it, that’s a decent indication that you really know what’s important to you and you’re ready to move forward.

What’s the next step after “knowing your why?”

Once you have gotten to the really important reason(s) for wanting to exercise or lead a healthier lifestyle, remind yourself of them often.  This will be the first step to your success. As mentioned above, consider writing them down and pinning them somewhere you’ll see them regularly. 

When it’s dark and rainy outside and you’d rather be curled up in bed than heading to your early morning fitness session, this is where you “why” kicks into action. There’s a quote that says

“Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most”

When you really understand your “why” and it’s truly important to you, your underlying motivators will kick in and get you out of bed and out of the door to live your best life and achieve your wildest dreams.

You have probably heard the term “internal motivation”. This is when you become motivated to exercise and make healthy choices as a result of your own internal drivers. You don’t rely on external motivators such as rewards or being pushed by other people. Sure, external motivators might still form part of your strategy but your deep internal drivers are the ones that really push you forward and provide you with intrinsic motivation for success in the long run.

Knowing your “why” essentially provides you with the intrinsic motivation you need for successful fitness goal setting and getting.

Further help to discover your why

Simon Sinek is a thought leader on knowing your “why” and helping you figure out your purpose, as well as the beliefs that inspire you. If you haven’t listened to his video about knowing your “why” (know your why ted talk) then I would highly recommend you check it out. It will really help you understand the importance of personal goals with a “why” behind them.

I also talk a lot about knowing your “why” and internal versus external drivers in this one-hour seminar about fitness motivation tips. Take a look at it now, or bookmark it to watch later. Make sure you subscribe to my channel for more holistic health and fitness videos, if you haven’t already.

For more about fitness goal setting and getting, check out this blog category, dedicated to the topic.

Work 1:1 with Elly to address the deep-seated barriers behind changing your exercise and food behaviors. Achieving fitness goals is much easier alongside the support and knowledge of a qualified fitness professional.

As a personal trainer turned online health and fitness coach I’d love to help you achieve your fitness goals. If you’re actually ready to start kicking your goals, click on the link below to find out how I can help you take the next step on your fitness journey.

Do you feel like you’re closer to knowing your “why”? What is your “why”? Why is fitness so important to you? I’d love to hear about it so please feel free to leave a comment in the box below!

Click here to grab your free 10-step guide to slaying your goals.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page].

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Elly McGuinness



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