Approximate read: 3 minutes; if you are more of a multimedia person, the 3min version of this blog post is at the end of the article

(Note: This blog post is the first in a series of articles looking at how to set clear, motivating and purposeful goals

I’ve based this article on a fantastic booked called Drive, written by Daniel Pink, one of my favorite authors. If you’re a book worm like me, I highly recommend you check it out. More info can be found at this link)


Goal setting is one of the first things you do when you start exercising. And it’s an important thing to do! As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there! And that’s not typically a good way of doing things.

However, setting goals – like actually meaningful goals! – is a bit more of a process than just saying “oh, I want to lose weight”.

In order to achieve your goals, you need to understand how to motivate yourself.

Based on research in behavioral science, there are three fundamental principles which drive motivation. They are:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

Let’s explore each in more detail!



In a nutshell, autonomy means doing:

  •        what you want to do (your task)
  •        who you want to do it with (your team)
  •        when you want to do it (your time), and
  •        how you want to do it (your technique)

Autonomy over your task. What do you want to be doing when it comes to fitness, health and nutrition? And what do you NOT want to be doing – because that’s just as important. You need to get clear on the types of things that you enjoy doing – and do more of them!

Autonomy over your team. Who do you want on your health team? Do you like your doctor, trainer, pharmacist, physiotherapist, fitness class instructor? If you don’t, you’re less likely to follow their advice and want to do what they are telling you. So make sure the people you surround yourself with are the right ones.

Autonomy over your time. When do you prefer to work out? For how long do you like to work out? When does it make sense for you to do your grocery shopping and cooking? Don’t just do things on a certain day, or at a certain time because everyone and their cat seems to be doing it!

Autonomy over your technique. Your task is to get fit. How you do it is completely up to you! There are a TON of exercises, recipes and classes you can try, which can fit in with your lifestyle and what you want to be doing!



The definition of mastery is striving to become better at something. When it comes to exercising, the idea behind mastery is that you should be focusing to become better at an activity, or specific exercise of some sort. In this way, you’re thinking more about improving and learning, than about exercising.

Think about someone whose goal is to do the Grouse Grind. That is what they want to master – and in order to do so, they automatically know they need to work on their cardio and leg strength. They show up to their workout every day not just to work on their cardio and legs, but knowing that by improving these two elements, they are getting themselves closer to the top of the Grouse Grind.



Having a purposeful goal means going underneath the surface of the thing you are trying to achieve. We often want to achieve our goals in order to satisfy a deeper need. Whether it’s vanity, or wanting to be healthy so we can enjoy our children and grandchildren, or wanting to do something we’ve never done before, it’s very rarely about the “surface goal”. By challenging ourselves to get underneath the surface of our initial goals, we are more likely to uncover the true reason why we are pursuing it – and remembering these reasons during those times when we don’t feel like doing things, can boost motivation.



So – are your current fitness goals aligned with the principles which drive motivation? If they aren’t, I’ve put together a cool resource which will help you make sure they are! It’s called The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting, and you can get your copy of it below! Remember: when choosing goals, pick stuff you actually want to be doing, choose who you want to do it with, and do it on your own terms. Choose to do something you can become better at, and dig under the surface to understand the purpose behind why you’re setting those goals!


More articles in this series:

How personality can influence whether you achieve your goals: Is your personality sabotaging your fitness goals?



The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting

How to set goals that are motivating, meaningful and purposeful

  • Understand the 3 key principles of motivation, and why they are crucial in your goal setting process
  • Uncover your interests, likes and dislikes, which will then guide you in your goal setting
  • Get clear on the reasons why you want to achieve your goals
  • Identify barriers that will prevent you from reaching your goals, and come up with solutions
  • Learn ways to motivate yourself when you don’t really feel like exercising
  • Learn ways in which you can prepare yourself for failure

Yes! I’m ready to take my goal setting to the next level!

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