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Purpose!


Imagine every day you went to work then hit the gym only to repeat over and over with little progress in body shape or fitness and no interest or fulfilment from your time in work… You may think what’s the point and stop going to the gym and quit your job!… Such behaviour may seem irrational, but I know people who have done this, and I often think maybe if they made life more purposeful, they wouldn’t need too….


In my life fitness has become a catalyst helping me find meaning in many areas that I never thought would bring purpose and I am grateful this has been the case… The Japanese use the term “Ikigai” to describe purpose in life that researchers define as, “the subjective perceptions that one’s daily life is worth living and that it is full of energy and motivation” (Kono et al. 2019). They also reported leisure activity participation related to higher perception of Ikigai (Kono, 2018; Kono and Walker, 2019)… However not many view exercise as leisurely, but they don’t need to for adherence if planned properly…


Goal setting is the foundation of fitness programs but the problem isn’t finding the best method such as Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant & Time based (SMART) or, other types, but more how vague and lacking purpose they seem towards your own personal meaning and values…Have you ever truly spent time exploring your own values?… Researchers developed five testable hypotheses that predict believing the intrinsic meaning and value of life, regardless of circumstances contributes to well-being, and that a “meaning mindset,” as compared to a “success mindset,” leads to greater eudemonic happiness and resilience (Wong, 2014). Researchers suggest when not having a clear sense of purpose or knowing what they value and why, writing down thoughts and formulating a strategy is important… Hence, it’s not all about the exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle because behaviour change must come first and honouring the work that psychologists suggest is more important…


Prior to setting goals, it seems finding more meaning and purpose are essential through journaling and making sense of thoughts and experiences etc as this will help set more meaningful goals… Most people will set a vague goal such as lose weight, build muscle or get fit for a race etc but if we can discover Why we’re setting those goals then we will have a much deeper meaning towards them and more likely to stay motivated and persist.. Try the WHY exercise further below to help find Your “WHY”…


Another problem arises when it comes to planning, preparing and actioning our goals, a rather vague, unplanned and poorly written approach leads to poor adherence… For example, a goal setting study by Mathews (2015) divided 267 participants into 5 groups:


* The first group set no goals and had no concrete plans.


* The second group set goals but did not prepare a plan to execute them.


* The third group prepared well-defined goals and plans of action to achieve them.


* The fourth group prepared well-defined goals and plans of action, then sent these to a supportive friend.


* The fifth group prepared well-defined goals and plans of action, then sent these to a supportive friend, together with weekly progress reports.


Results showed group 5 with the most concrete planning and accountability in place accomplished significantly more than other groups… This demonstrates that the overall consideration and effort put into the planning process could be critical to success… I know many who set goals like group 2 and can be guilty of doing this myself, like just thinking that’s what I want but not planning and preparing in any meaningful practical way… I don’t do this as often now and I’m still developing a more concrete planning process for my goals…


I hope this helps you consider looking inside and considering developing and nurturing a more meaningful, purposeful approach before setting goals and when you have found that use a more concrete and well-rounded system to plan and actioning those goals…



Finding Your “WHY” Exercise


Try this exercise to help you find your ‘WHY’… Insert your goal and reason into the following:


I want to ………………………………. Because"…………………………………..


For example, I want to lose 2 stone because I want to look in better shape for my holiday…. Then insert the reason into the first part of the sentence and repeat this at least 5 times so here’s what this example may look like…


1. I want to get in shape for my holiday because I want to feel good about myself on the beach and hotel pool…


2. I want to feel good about myself on the beach and hotel pool because I get embarrassed about my shape and lowers my self-esteem…


3. I don’t want to feel embarrassed & have low self-esteem because I want to have fun with my family and friends…


4. I want to have fun with family and friends because it makes me feel alive…


5. I want to feel alive because when I am my family and friends benefit and I can be more useful to them…


This is a random example, but you can see in this case they went from wanting to look good for themselves on holiday to wanting to feel more alive so that others close to them can benefit… When the chips are down which they will be many times this person will tap into their wanting to feel alive to help others which will resonate better with themselves to keep at it!... Give it a go and just keep asking yourself why as many times you need to…


If you’re looking for some help and guidance on this or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact myself using the email provided…


Remember to create meaning and concrete goals..


Andy Armour



Kono, S. (2018). Theorizing linkages between ikigai (life worthiness) and leisure among Japanese university students: A mixed methods approach. (Doctor of philosophy). University of Alberta Alberta.


Kono, S., and Walker, G. J. (2019). Theorizing ikigai or life worth living among Japanese university students: a mixed-methods approach. J. Happiness Stud. 1–29. doi: 10.1007/s10902-019-00086-x


Kono, S., Walker, G. J., Ito, E., and Hagi, Y. (2019). Theorizing leisure's roles in the pursuit of ikigai (life worthiness): a mixed-methods approach. Leis. Sci. 41, 237–259. doi: 10.1080/01490400.2017.1356255


Matthews, G. (2015). Goal research summary. Paper presented at the 9th Annual International Conference of the Psychology Research Unit of Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), Athens, Greece.


Wong, P. T. (2014). “Viktor Frankl’s meaning-seeking model and positive psychology” in Meaning in positive and existential psychology. ed. A. B. P. Russo-Netzer (New York, NY: Springer), 149–184.

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