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?
Finding your Why
People often express platitudes like, ‘to improve the well-being and health of my community’ or ‘to make a change in other people’s lives’. I want to suggest that the reason you chose this path was much more personal, and finding your actual ‘why’ will make a massive difference in how you progress in your career. It will give you the drive and answers to motivate you when you are tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Those times you ask yourself, “Why do I do this?“
In the 1800s, 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 we often peek at when 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 fulfilment 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. The universe yelled STOP, and we slammed on the brakes. This sudden interruption to our lives may have been uninvented and unwelcome. Still, it provided an opportunity to apply to ourselves the advice 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 constantly scrambling 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 ‘why’ everything.
The 5 Whys
So how do you discover your why? Let me introduce 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 following question. Engineer and ‘Father of the Toyota Production System’ Tallchi Ohno explained the system, ‘By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem and its solution becomes clear.’
What? A car manufacturer came up with a concept you can use for self-discovery. It is the same method children use 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, mentor, and present and create programs. Having also used it more recently in my Aqua Mentoring group, with excellent results. Permit me to share my ‘whys’ with you 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 they enjoy’. Yes, friendly and very politically correct. That is a satisfying answer. But is it the real one?
2. Why do I want to encourage people to move in ways they enjoy?
Now it gets a little deeper. My response is, ‘because I know that if people enjoy their exercise, 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 vital for me to find something I knew I could stick to and, crucially, enjoy.
4. Why is it essential for me to enjoy exercise?
Growing up, exercise was not fun. I didn’t fit in at school, wasn’t athletic, and 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, my dad got me a membership when a small gym opened in our town. For the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere and was encouraged and supported regardless of my ability. It was about my personal best rather than competing against others.
What is My Why
So after delving deeper, what is my real why? To create communities for people who don’t fit in. For those outside the athletic box and 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, empowering you regarding your decisions 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 guide you. Try it out with a colleague and have them ask you the 5 Whys: it is much more potent when you are both witnesses to each other’s why.