Here’s a tall tale for you. Let’s peek inside the life of a couple on their anniversary.

All day long the wife has been looking forward to seeing her husband so she can give him the gift she’s spent so much time searching for. It’s something very special to him. She spent lots of thought and effort getting it for him.

The husband, on the other hand, has been caught in meeting after meeting at work. As the day winds down and his co-workers begin leaving for the home, he feels a knot in the pit of his stomach. What am I forgetting? When he turns down the street that leads to his neighborhood he’s thinking about how much he’s looking forward to sitting down to the delicious, hot meal his wife always makes for him. She’s such an amazing cook. I’m so blessed to have her as my…

“My wife! Oh no, I forgot our anniversary!” He makes a razor-sharp U-turn, tires squealing, and heads for the local florist.

Nice story, Dino, but what does it have to do with motives? Okay, look: both the husband and the wife are doing something nice for one another. But one is doing it out of love and the other is doing it out of fear. One is doing it to give; the other is doing it to avoid pain.

We’re the same way when it comes to our motives for getting fit. Have you received a disturbing report from your doctor? Has all the fitness information around you finally scared the living daylights out of you? Are you after a promotion or some other goal and you feel you won’t be able to achieve it without dropping that fat?

Your motives for getting fit will determine whether or not you succeed and whether or not you stick with it for the long term. Did you know that 95–98 percent of people who start a program quit? A bad motive is the first big landmine on the road to good health.

To get you thinking correctly about this, I’m going to go through a few bad motives I’ve encountered in people trying to get fit. Then we’ll move to the right reason.

Wrong motives

Let’s look at a few wrong motives. It’s not an exhaustive list. Feel free to add others in!

Wrong motive #1: Trying to be what the culture says you should be

None of us has escaped the images of beauty and health that come at us through the media and in the opinions of people and groups around us. Maybe you saw a model in a magazine or someone on the street, and you thought, “That’s what I should look like.” All of us want to be accepted. If that’s the image that will be accepted, it’s very easy to aspire to look like that. We want to fit the mold and be the ideal.

The problem is that we become slaves to that mold. We leave behind other elements of identity and focus only on physical appearance and a certain clothing size. It negatively impacts our body image, self-esteem, and our relationships with others. We become social outcasts because we’re so self-conscious of our bodies and appearance. This slavery keeps us from participating in activities because we don’t “look” like we belong or have the body to be engaging in those activities. It ends in bondage.

The Bible says there is a way that looks right, but it ends in destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Wanting to get fit so you will find acceptance by the culture is a bad motive. Culture, like all slave drivers, is a cruel and ever-changing master. It won’t bring you the peace you seek.

Wrong motive #2: Finding your identity in fitness

You already know my story and how this was a path I tried to follow. I’m here to tell you, it’s a dead end road.

Maybe you have the figure of a model. You are the embodiment of the ideal this culture adores. People practically bow down to worship you. Heads turn. Jaws drop. Or maybe you just want to reach that place because you feel that if you could look like that, you would have arrived.