In the original City Slickers movie with Billy Crystal, Curly, played by Jack Palance, was the tough, grumpy old cowboy who seldom spoke. But underneath the rough, tough exterior, Curly had the wisdom of the ages.
In a rare heart-to-heart conversation between the two, Curly shared with Billy the 'secret of life'. The secret of life was 'one thing'. When pressed to name it, Curly refused to tell Billy what that one thing was. He told Billy he'd have to find it for himself.
I had an interesting conversation about lasting inspirational motivation with a very dynamic woman the other day concerning that 'one thing' when it comes to not just stop-start exercising but consistent daily exercise.
She told me: "Most people have the 'one thing' – the why which only works in the short term. Most of us have short-term compelling goals, say a bride or groom who want to look great on their special day. They go and lose heaps of weight so that they look and feel great as they walk down the aisle.
"That's the short-term why, but soon after, because their motivation was based around a short-term why, the motivation to keep going with their healthier lifestyle grinds to a halt the day the honeymoon begins.
"So, you need to look for your own special motivation to make the changes lifelong. It's not so much about looking great in a swimsuit for your holiday, but looking great when you are 90 and still happy and active!"
That was her insight into having a powerful long-term why. She certainly nailed the 'one thing' secret of life for exercise.
When I asked her how she came up with the long-term lasting why, she told me a story about a friend of hers who only found the motivation to switch to a healthier lifestyle after two heart attacks
After the first attack, doctors warned him that if he didn't change a few things, he was likely to have a second, more serious, attack which he might not survive.
But even this warning was not enough to change the habits of almost a lifetime – smoking, very little exercise and a great love of salt and sugar in his food. For a while, everything changed. But, slowly, he slid back to his old ways, and within six months, he suffered that second heart attack and nearly didn't make it.
This time, the doctors warned him that he would not live to see his youngest daughter grow up if he didn't take better care of himself. That was the emotional trigger for him . . . not the thought of dying, but the thought of dying and not seeing his beautiful five-year-old little girl grow up. The doctor, in one fell swoop, had helped him to discover his 'one thing'.
That 'little' girl is now 25, and her father has not smoked and has lived a much healthier lifestyle since that terrible day 20 years ago. He found the compelling motivation, the true secret of life, that one thing that made it worthwhile for him to change the bad habits of a lifetime.
Everyone listens to an FM station called WII FM. "What's In It For Me?" What is your compelling long-term why, your one thing, your big WII FM factor that would make it more worthwhile for you to get off the couch and take exercise than just stay there?
But don't ask Curly to tell you your 'one thing'. He won't. He'll tell you to discover that for yourself. Once you find it, you will have it with you for a full lifetime.
Declan Coyle is a director of Andec Communications. His motivational techniques have been used by several All-Ireland winning teams. firstname.lastname@example.org