Have you ever really asked yourself why you teach group fitness? Why did you decide that this would be the career (or part-time pursuit) that you would follow over so many other options?
Often people will express platitudes like, ‘to improve the well-being and health of my community’ or ‘to make a change in other people’s lives’. I would like to suggest that the reason you chose this path was much more personal, and finding your real ‘why’ will make a huge difference in how you progress in your career. It will provide you with the drive and answers to motivate you when you are tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed. You know, those times that you are asking yourself “why do I do this?“
In the 1800’s, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote “if we have our own ‘why’ of life we shall get along with almost any how'”. This was also famously quoted 100 years later by Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in his iconic book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946). Finding the reason for existence is one of those deep conversations that often we peek at when we are trying to understand the world around us. More recently, Simon Sinek has written several books and delivered countless talks and courses about this topic. He believes that ‘whether you are an entrepreneur, an employee, a leader of a team, or are looking to find clarity on your next move, your WHY is the one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life.’
I would like to suggest what the reason you chose this path was much more personal
2020 was a year in which a lot of us had time to reflect on our lives and what was important to us. For many fitness professionals, it was a barricade that stopped the runaway train of our daily commitments. It was like the universe yelled STOP and we slammed on the brakes. This sudden interruption to our lives may have been uninvented and unwelcome, but it provided an opportunity to apply to ourselves the advice that we so often give our communities, to stop and breathe. In that breath, some of us were taken by surprise. The surprise was the realization that maybe we had lost track of what was important to us – our why. Why were we teaching classes= Why were we delivering workouts that, perhaps, were not good for our bodies? Why were we scrambling constantly to create new workouts and feeling like we were not delivering at our best? Why were we comparing ourselves to other instructors, other class numbers, other… We basically ‘whyed’ everything.
The 5 Whys
So how do you discover your why? Well, let me introduce to you the 5 Whys concept developed by Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor and industrialist who founded the Toyota motor company. The approach requires that ‘why’ be asked five times whenever a problem is encountered. Essentially, the answer to each ‘why’ forms the basis of the question that follows it. Explaining the system, engineer and ‘Father of the Toyota Production System’ Tallchi Ohno, said ‘By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.’
What? A car manufacturer came up with a concept that you can use for self discovery? In fact, it is the same method that children use when trying to understand the world. Somehow, most of us have forgotten this skill. I have used this process for various aspects of my business: why I teach classes, why I mentor, why I present and create programs. I have also user it more recently in my Aqua Mentoring group, and with amazing results. Permit me to share my ‘whys’ with your so that you can see how to implement the system.
1. Why do I teach?
Let this question sink in for a couple of minutes My response is ‘to encourage other people to move in ways that they enjoy’. Yes, nice and very politically correct. A lovely answer. But is it the real one?
2. Why do I want to encourage people to move in ways that they enjoy?
Now it gets a little deeper. My response is ‘because I know that if people enjoy the exercise that they do, they will be more likely to continue it as a lifelong practice’.
3. Why is it important to make it a lifelong practice?
Because it was important for me to find something that I knew I could stick to and, crucially, enjoy.
4. Why is it important for me to enjoy exercise?
Because growing up, exercise was not fun. I didn’t fit in at school, I wasn’t athletic and I was overweight. PE was a horrible experience for me, and growing up in a small country town that celebrated individual sporting achievements, I didn’t feel like I fit in.
5. Why is it important that I fit in?
Because it felt like I belonged. When a small gym opened in our town, my dad got me a membership. For the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere, and I was encouraged and supported regardless of my ability. It was about my personal best, rather than competing against others.
So after delving deeper, what is my real why? To create communities for people who don’t fit in. For those who are outside the athletic box and are looking for exercise options that they can do successfully, without comparison or judgment. When I look at all the programs and education that I have delivered or developed, they are not mainstream. They are outside the box. That is my why.
Discovering this was a truly enlightening experience for me. When you dig deep enough, you will also discover your personal why, and it will empower you when it comes to the decisions you make moving forward. When you have this clarity, your decisions won’t get muddled by things that don’t align with your why. Like a needle always pointing North on a compass, your why will be your guide. Try it out with a colleague and also have them ask you the 5 Whys: it is so much more potent when you are both witnesses to each other’s why.