Understanding the motivation: Why do you want to change?

20% of making any change is knowing how; 80% is actually knowing why.

Often you read that starting small is an important prerequisite, a box you need to tick off if you like, before you actually start to introduce a new change in your life. Indeed, starting small is prettty important. But in terms of increasing the chance to succeed on your change, one thing is even more important: Answering for yourself why do you want to change?

Before you begin to introduce a change, you actually need to ask yourself WHY do you want to change and are bothered in the first place? A popular saying is that only 20% of making any change is knowing how; 80% is actually knowing why.

Think about that for a moment. Why do you think some of your friends almost always seem to effortlessly succeed on their goals and ambitions, whereas you struggle every single time and eventually have to give up? Why is that? Are you simply lacking willpower? No. It actually has turned out that willpower isn’t really a thing.

One of the reasons you probably lost your motivation halfway is that you didn’t light a big enough fire under your backside. Your motivation was fleeting because you didn’t have a big enough reason to stick to your guns, so you simply lost interest along the way. You stopped caring enough about it.

That’s why a powerful enough reason you actually do want to change is absolutely key, as it provides you a more sustainable and lasting source of energy that you can rely on in the long run and tap into when facing difficult times. Those reasons why have to come from within you. As each of us has a different background, hold different values and beliefs, where we get our true drive and inspiration from is different for you and me, if that make sense.

“No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal.”


For example, adventure and playfulness are very important values to me. That’s why I derived so much pleasure in coasteering a few years ago. That’s where I can get my energy from. This doesn’t mean you should be excited about that too. Not in the slightest. Someone else might be very creative, social and caring towards others, which could be a good reason to start to crochet or start an Etsy business. Absolutely fine by me if that works out for you. Go for it. However, whereas the underlying motivation to care about something is different from person to person, what is the same is that the underlying values are always highly personal and fit to that individual.

How to figure out your why’s

One way (there are many) to figure out why do you want to change and where you can get your drive and passion from for doing a new activity or starting a habit (there are many more ways if you’re interested) is to look at your so-called ‘core drives’ as developed by Yu-kai Chou. Yu-kai is an expert in something they call behavioural design (he has a special interest in gamification). Yu-Kai believes most of your motivation comes from 8 different core drives. Here are some examples for 5 of them.

Drive (or WHY)ExampleHow can it make you feel?
Epic meaning, calling
The drive where you are motivated because you believe in something bigger than yourself.
Hannah wants to be a mom and look after her children, so they have the world at their feet.Meaningful, fulfilled, able to contribute
Development and accomplishment
The drive where you are driven by a sense of growth and need to accomplish a targeted goal.
Harry wants to compete in an Ironman and is up for a tough challenge. He subscribed to the Ironman in Pembrokeshire.Proud, smart, accomplished
Empowerment of creativity and feedback
What most people refer to as “Play”. People are by nature creative beings, and we yearn to learn, imagine, invent, and partake in creative processes where the journey in of itself brings happiness.
Most afternoons when Matt comes back from school he runs upstairs, opens his cupboard and takes all his Lego out. He creates his only little world where time flies by when he’s in his own little bubble.Sense of freedom, autonomy, feel creative, you imagine and invent and feel empowered
Social influence and relatedness
Fuelled by our desire to connect and compare to one another. Driven by what other people think, do, or say.
Dan also is going to participate in an Ironman. He was persuaded to join by his friend, Jake. He can’t go back anymore. Damn. Nevertheless, he’s determined to beat him on the day.Connected, committed, envy relatedness.
Loss and avoidance
Motivates through the fear of losing something or having undesirable events transpire
Rhi has recently been told by her GP she might have to lose one of her organs if she continues to drink like as she’s doing now. Rhi is wise and cuts back on her drinking.Feeling of urgency, fear of losing or failure, fear of regret
Core Drive examples

In his book, Yu-kai talks about 8 core drives. You might have a preference for one drive to another – one or two you can specifically relate to.

Listen why these people want to change

Here is one final example to see if you put into practise what you’ve just learned.

Watch a 5-minute video of Wubbo Ockels, a Dutch astronaut and professor. He sadly died the day after this video due to incurable kidney cancer. See if you can filter out Wubbo’s ulterior motives or drives?

Now that’s one person, facing a specific context to compells him to bring about change. Here’s another one, a short story of Steve Jobs. He gave this talk during a Stanford Commencement speech in 2005. Have a listen.

Now that you have watched either of these short clips, could you tell why did Steve or Wubbo care?

While the story of Wubbo and Steve might inspire you, in the end it’s all about formulating your own inspirational reasons to make a change. So, what is your story? What’s on your mind at this very moment? What would you like to change, if you could, right now? Why do you care? Why do you want to make that change now and not somewhere in the future? What could it bring you? Think about it and most importantly, write it down.

If your underlying set of reasons is strong and urgent enough, you’ll find the leverage you need and can change in a minute what you’ve failed to change for years. By strong enough, I mean that that your reasons need to mean something to you. Each of those reasons you’ve put down should resonate deeply within you. It needs to be emotional and ideally linked to your core values. The stronger the reason resonates within you, the better they can work for you, especially when life gets difficult. By urgent, I mean you need to find reasons that make it imminent you need to change now. Not someday, not tomorrow. Now. It needs a certain sense of urgency to make you feel you need to act immediately.

Over to you: What’s your reason to change?

So make your WHY as strong and urgent as you possibly can. You need all the firepower you can get to create enough leverage and break through your gates of inertia. Once you reach that leverage point – you’ll feel it once you get there –  you’ll be surprised how ready you feel to start and persist. You should hit an emotional threshold. All the reasons are within you, right now.

If you need any further help, check out this awesome resource which uses AI to filter out your reason to change (in coaching we also call these you values). Values.guide is a free resource to help facilitate the discovery of personal values. Definitely worth checking it out.


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