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  • Writer's pictureJim

Why or What? How to Reach Your Goals

Learning to play guitar was always in the back of my mind growing up. The music I liked was heavily influenced by the great rock guitarists, like Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, and Jimi Hendrix, In my late 40’s, I finally set a goal of learning to play the guitar.

Why My big “Why” was to fulfill a childhood dream. I also wanted to be able to play at family gatherings and to prove to myself that you can continue to learn at any age.  Continuous learning is part of my personal mission statement.  What I knew taking up guitar at a late age would be difficult and that it would take a long time before I even had the fundamentals down. So instead of focusing on playing songs at our annual Christmas Eve gathering, I set a goal of practicing for at least 15 minutes every night.

At that time I did not know that I was following some basic rules of successful goal accomplishment – thinking in terms of “why” and “what.”  In her book, “Succeed; How We Can Reach Our Goals”, Heidi Grant Halvorson outlines how thinking in terms of both “why” and “what” help us accomplish our goals. “Why” thinking is important help to keep us motivated. “Why” thinking connects our daily actions to something larger – to our bigger purpose. “Why” thinking keeps us focused on the end result we want and makes it more likely to plan our actions in advance.  When we think in “why” terms we feel that we are more in control of the outcome we want.  “What” thinking, on the other hand, focuses on the details of how we get from where we are to where we want to be. “What” thinking keeps us focused on the daily task we need to do to keep moving toward our goals.  “What” thinking is great when you have tasks that are very difficult, complicated, new, or out of your comfort zone. Breaking tasks into smaller steps helps when learning something new, prevents procrastination and aids in overcoming obstacles. Thinking what do I need to do now promotes action that moves us closer to our goals.

Shifting back and forth from “why” to “what” helps maintain progress toward achieving any goal. When you need a motivation boost or some energy to start, think “why.” Remember the big reasons that you started the goal in the first place. When the going gets tough, shift to “what” thinking to keep you moving. When my motivation starts to lag in reaching my guitar goals, I think about why I started to play the guitar, how far I have come and where I want to be in the future. When I am trying to learn a new song, I think about what I have to do and work on a set practice schedule to keep me moving forward.

Although I will never be a rock star musician, but playing the guitar have given me many hours of satisfaction.  Our Christmas Eve celebrations now include a guitar sing-a-long with my grandchildren. It doesn’t get any better than that. Do you have a “Why” and a “What” when it comes to your fitness and health?  If you would like a free consultation, contact me at or call 484-441-6126.

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