Inside this post: A simple two-word formula that’s aimed at helping you figure out why you need to keep trying, even if your confidence in your abilities is wavering.
“Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer?” “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Avid Grey’s Anatomy fans may remember this this quote from season one – you know, forever ago.
I can’t tell you many lines from the show that I’ve binge-watched and habitually rewatched (I miss George every single time, FYI), but that one stuck with me. Well, that and “Pick me. Choose me. Love me.” which is regularly stated in our house. Mostly to our dogs.
But for years now, it has been the reminder of why I do a lot of things. Really, it’s more so a reason why I push when I just want to call it quits.
Why keep working on self-development, fighting my depression and anxiety when some days it feels absolutely pointless? Because it feels earth-shatteringly exceptional when I find my way out of the dark. And the harder I try, the more often it happens.
Why stay self-employed when the hours can suck and the work feels thankless on a regular basis? Because the amount of gratitude I feel when I get to choose my family over work when something important comes up feels like it’s the size of Mount Everest (without all the dead bodies though.)
Why keep training a dog that is more hardheaded than every other dog I’ve owned combined? Because I know where we started. And I know the tearful uncertainty of my decision to bring him into our home that has now been replaced with a dump truck size of pride.
This simple quote is the kick in the pants reminder that good things come from hard work.
And great things come from pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.
And amazing things come from digging in and giving it all the effort I’ve got even when I just want to cry uncle and binge-watch Mindhunter in defeat.
So how do you figure out how to keep swinging that proverbial hammer?
Ask Thor, that’s how.
Nope, that’s wrong.
You figure out your why. You ask yourself why bother and then answer it with the one thing (or twenty things) that make it worth it. And you glorify the hell out of it.
I could have told you the reason I kept pursuing self-development was because I should. Or because it makes me feel better. But well, that’s bland. Boring. And not inspiring at all. And truthfully, not at all a solid reflection of why I keep going, especially when the tears are more prevalent than smiles.
And I could have told you I stay self-employed because it’s easier than going back to the corporate world. But nope. I remembered why I chose to be an entrepreneur. And I think back to the times I got to choose our dogs, my daughter, or even myself and the relief I that came with the satisfaction that my priorities mattered most.
And that dog? I could have said because he eventually became a pretty good dog. Or because all dogs deserve good homes.
But our relationship is filled with blood, sweat, and tears. Very literally on all accounts, too. But when all 70 pounds of him comes up, plops down on my lap, and takes a little nap – I can’t help but tear up a little. This dog was so traumatized we couldn’t sit by him or sleep by him without him growling within 3 minutes for weeks, if not months, after we got him. It was gut-wrenching.
And now… he is the epitome of why that quote stuck with me.
Now you might be wondering why you can’t just leave it at the basics. There’s a good chance you may not even share the why or the because with anyone other than yourself.
But this is where it gets tricky.
If you’re anything like me, you might think you don’t need the extra effort. That it’s just you. You’ve seen yourself at your best and worst so who cares if you come up flashy way to say the reason you keep cleaning your house (even though it’s dirty two minutes after you do it) because you like a clean house?
And because the reason you clean every day isn’t just because you like a clean house.
What does a clean house mean to you?
What does a clean house make you feel?
Are you more productive when you home is clean? Less stressed, less anxious, more patient?
Are there things you don’t do as often when your home is cluttered? Like exercise, relax, spend time with your family?
For me, a clean house means less anxiety. Less stress. More patience. More fun. More creativity. Less dirty feet because I always walk barefoot.
And I don’t exercise or relax or practice mindfulness nearly as often when our house is cluttered or dirty.
So why do I keep cleaning even though our dogs and daughter destroy my efforts quicker than Thanos’s snap? Because my rage is reminiscent of the Hulk before Bruce Banner stops trying to repress his rage when our house is cluttered.
Now that? That is so much more powerful than “because I like a clean house.” And it paints a vivid picture of how I react to even tiny things that annoy me when our house isn’t mostly clean.
YOU deserve to look at your because and feel like you can’t help but launch yourself into action again. You should be able to read your because and know that this is why you aren’t giving up.
And if you write your why, and the because falls flat, take a minute. Or ten. Or a day. Go for a walk, play a game with your kids, or start planning that dream vacation that you may never go on. Anything other than continuing to pursue it because that will not result in an alluring because that calls you to like a freakin’ siren would.
And then come back to it when you’re ready.
Hopefully you’ve got an answer that makes it sound like you’re a brilliant rockstar now. But if you don’t, consider a few things:
Is the answer painful to the point that you don’t want to actually answer the question?
Examples might be:
Why do I keep yelling at my kids even though it makes everyone cry? (Is it because you’re overwhelmed or not living the life you really want to?)
Why do I keep emotional eating even though I’m trying to lose weight? (Is it because you haven’t taken the time to figure out how to help your triggers or because you are future predicting?)
Why do I keep trying to make homemade brownies that I hate when I really just love the box mix ones a lot? (Is it because you feel like you shouldn’t like the box mix one so much you could polish off a pan in a day?)
In these instances, honesty really is the best policy. It doesn’t seal your fate. If you’re yelling, it doesn’t guarantee that you will be the “angry mom” forever. It doesn’t promise you a lifetime of eating your way through your emotions via pints of ice cream. And it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck slaving over brownies for an hour when you could have just thrown them together in 5 minutes.
What it does do is allows you to move forward. Because accepting yourself as is gives you the starting point. So you start with where you are and grow from there. Then when you’re all reflecting and looking back at what you accomplished, dance a celebration dance that puts those early Grey’s dance parties to shame.
And then you can rephrase with a more productive habit to curb the negative habit.
Why am I meditating and journaling every night even when I’m so exhausted? (Because I don’t want to yell at my kids every single day.)
Why am I avoiding certain aisles at the grocery store even though I just want some damn cookies or chips? (Because I know what I will consume like it’s the air I need to breathe if I’m stressed.)
Why did I just buy boxed brownies? (Because they’re good. AMAZINGLY good. Enough said.)
And yep, this is me, raising my hand, stating that I’ve struggled (or currently struggle) with all of these. Accepting myself in all of my flawed glory.
And if that’s not it… is this really what you want?
If your because is filled with guilt or shame or shoulds, it might not be something you need to be pursuing. Or maybe it just needs a gentle rephrasing.
An example might be:
Why do I hold on to my friends who usually feel more like frenemies?
Answers might include:
Because I don’t have many friends.
Because I should be available for them – they’re my friends.
Because the guilt I feel for standing up to them makes my stomach feel like there’s a manual ice cream churn in it.
If you’re feeling anything along these lines with any situation, I’m sorry. (Especially if it’s a similar situation.) I’ve been there and the pain that stems from doing things because you should or because of guilt/shame is dreadful.
In this example, there’s not really a good answer. Nothing that deserves to be glorified at least. And nothing that’s going to make you feel like “HELL YES! LET’S KEEP DOING THIS!”
The truth is, life is too short to hold on to people that don’t fill you with joy. So some powerful rephrasing might be just the ticket you need to generate some forward action.
Instead, you might ask why pursue new friendships when I already have friends?
And the answers could be:
Because I feel like my thoughtful efforts are wasted on my current friends.
Because I would love to have friends that I call up to hang out with a laugh on a regular basis.
Because I bake the best brownies the world has to offer (even if it is from a box, but they at least have nuts) and I want to share them with awesome, brownie loving people.
So if you’re looking to call it quits on that new exercise plan, or those business ideas, or those financial goals, or whatever direction your beautiful ambition is aimed at – figure out why you need to keep chasing that amazing dream.
Then glorify the crap out of it so you can’t help but smile when you think about what you plan to achieve.
And make sure to review this why/because statement on a regular basis. Daily or weekly, remind yourself why you keep going. Print it out, keep it as your phone background, set a reminder – do whatever it takes to ensure you never forget why you’re fighting.
How do you keep going, even when it feels impossible? What is your most powerful because to keep your motivated?