Lifestyle Motivation Essentials and Goal-Setting

Motivation Essentials and Goal-Setting

Motivation Essentials and Goal-Setting

Brace yourselves for a bit of a longer than the usual article, however, totally worth reading!

Before starting to look deeper into the topic, it is worth mentioning that every reader knows exactly what their goal is and why they want to achieve it. It is very often when individuals are diving into a pursuit of a goal, without knowing why exactly they are doing such a thing. For instance, going to the gym, purely because you have some fat around the belly is usually an insignificant reason that will guarantee success. Nevertheless, this principle works for every aspect of life, it does not necessarily have to be based around exercising.


Although exercise has numerous benefits, only a small percentage of the world population is participating in any sort of it on a regular basis.

The UK’s physical activity guidelines suggest 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as cycling; two or more days a week in which the major muscle groups (e.g. chest, legs, etc.) are trained, using resistance, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running.

Above guidelines mentioned simply in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Nowadays, the number of people regularly participating in any sort of exercise is increasing, however, only the minority of those people manage to adhere to regular exercising patterns. Many barriers such as time, motivation levels, nobody to exercise with are usually used as an excuse in order to avoid physical activity.

The aim of this article will be to provide the readers with a few tools that can be implemented within our daily lifestyle and how to use them in order to maintain high motivation levels in and even outside the gym, therefore, ensuring adherence.



  • Lack of fitness knowledge
  • Lack of time
  • Goal-setting (will be covered in greater details below)
  • Lack of confidence – self-efficacy (also to be covered in greater details below)

How to overcome barriers:


Goal-setting is important not only for what you want to achieve in fitness, but also for everything in life. It is very simple, straightforward, and yet, very effective if done correctly. It can be a short, medium, or long-term goal.

Why use goal-setting?

It is a very effective way of measuring progress and having regular checkpoints to ensure that one is heading in the right direction. It can be different for every individual, as it strongly depends on one’s values. For instance, losing 10 kilograms of body weight within a year is the long-term goal.

Short and medium-term goals will be just used as checkpoints within the next year in order to ensure that one’s still on the right track. If we spread 10 kilograms of weight loss within 12 months, this will result in 0.8kg to be lost each month (short-term goal). Furthermore, 6 months into the year can be the medium-term checkpoint, in which one optimally should have lost 5kg of bodyweight.

Now, in theory, this seems quite simple, however, a big percentage of the population fails to succeed with their long-term goals (in and outside of the gym), hence, tips on how to use goal-setting adequately will be discussed below.

How to use goal-setting. Introduction to start goal-setting:


Specificity in goals is vital for success. Challenging goals tend to be more motivational, hence increasing the likelihood of success. Nevertheless, too much of a challenge (unrealistic goal) would most likely result in a failure to achieve, therefore, contributing towards disappointment.

This directly correlates with a lack of fitness knowledge. The main reason being is that not having adequate training and/or a macronutrient plan that is the foundation of one’s path to achieving their goal, will most likely result in them being unsuccessful in that regard. Being unsuccessful will, therefore, result in disappointment. Eventually, if disappointment is present, relapse is highly likely. This is explained well in the picture below: 

Picture 1.


To briefly summarise, as goal difficulty goes up, performance decreases and vice-versa. Therefore, the perfect ratio should be.


When the goal is set for the short-term, it is easier to accomplish and will most likely increase motivation. If the goal is set long-term, then it might be too far away to be accomplished and could lead to relapse. As mentioned above, the long-term goal should be clear (e.g. -10kg in 1 year). However, the short and medium-term goals should be adequate checkpoints that are ensuring one’s on the right track, hence they are of great importance. If these are not synced well enough, progress in the right direction is not guaranteed.


Autonomy in one choosing their goal is key. If external opinions (e.g. society pressure) are the main reason behind the commitment, relapse is likely. However, if a person decides by themselves that it is time for a change and is choosing autonomously, success is likely. For instance, “My friends are making me go to the gym with them, therefore, I better start exercising with them”. If that is the reason for one to start exercising, instead of choosing it autonomously, adherence and success in achieving a goal are less likely.

Rewards and feedback

There are 2 types of rewards:

Internal rewards – feeling of accomplishment, happiness, joy, being proud of what has been achieved thus far.

External rewards – striving for glory, money, aesthetics, etc.

Both of these reward types can be beneficial for one, however, it does depend on the type of goal and the person himself.

Most people would benefit more from internal rewards, as external may take longer and be hard to achieve. A good way to implement this tool is via having a journal. Every two weeks (can be anytime) for instance the person takes a few minutes to recall what the last two weeks of his life were like and what they did to achieve their goal. Writing everything down and looking back to see the progress is key to staying motivated and keeping track of how far one has gone since the start. Rewards will vary in-between individuals and goals. For instance, if I had lost 1kg in the last month (0.8kg was the goal), I can afford to skip a workout (a meal, a whole week of dieting, whatever it is) in order to relieve myself psychologically, therefore, ensure adherence in the long-term.

The main objective of rewards and feedback is to remind people that in order to succeed with our goal, things will happen over a prolonged period of time. Therefore, everyone is allowed a bad day/week/month and one should not feel bad or de-motivated because of it.


Tools can be different. Everything that can help you progress towards achieving your goal can be a tool. Goal-setting and START goals are also tools. More of these can be found in the Exercise Psychology research area.

Action Planning


Action planning is a tool, that is designed to help the goal-setting. Once the goal is set, then a plan with actions for the upcoming days/weeks/month can be completed. For instance, an individual sets a short-term goal for a week ahead and then plans every day of the upcoming week and what it would include, such as, hours and type of exercise, etc. Furthermore, this tool can help one to easily overcome the “lack of time” barrier. By having a structured and organized schedule, not having enough time to exercise (or whatever the goal is) is unlikely. See Picture 2 below for an example of an Action Plan.
Picture 2.


Is one’s belief about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance. In simple words, how confident one feels in performing a task of any sort (does not necessarily have to be exercise-related). Examples of one’s low self-efficacy: views challenges as threats; gives up when things get hard; does not feel confident about success.

This directly correlates with goal-setting and the eventual disappointment if one does not succeed. Being able to handle a rough path towards long-term achievements is key. However, as this is already a long enough article, I will not be spending an excessive amount of time on this area of research. See Picture 3 below for greater details and explanation.

Picture 3.

Basically, being able to cope with barriers, being persistent with our efforts, and believe in the possibility of us achieving the long-term goal is vital. If there is a possible set-back along the road, people tend to lose their motivation to continue, and once there’s no more persistence, relapse is highly likely.



Knowing what and why someone wants to achieve a certain goal in their life is vital. Many consider motivation as the driving factor behind peoples’ success and rely on it to succeed (regardless of the goal). However, the things that we do on a regular basis are the tools that supplement our path to ensure we stay on the right track that will lead to achievement. The above-mentioned tools are a good way to ensure consistency and effort, in case of motivation being absent at certain times. Nobody in this world has an unlimited motivation and yet, there are a lot of individuals who are managing to succeed with the goals they have set.
The greatest life-hack that we can all learn from and implement within our life is consistency and not giving up. We all will lack motivation at times, however, what is important is that we continue the efforts that will keep us on the right track, regardless of what the goal is. Once we learn how to be consistent, success in achieving our goals is very likely.
P.S. For whoever read that boringly long article, well done! I would advise you guys to conduct your own research on the above topics, from the references that I have included below.

NHS, 2018. Physical activity guidelines for adults – Live Well – NHS Choices [viewed 22 January 2018]. Available from:

BHF, 2018. Physical Inactivity Report 2017 [viewed 22 January 2018]. Available from:

JO, P. and V. WF, 1997. The transtheoretical model of health behavior change

PEARSON, E., 2012. Goal setting as a health behavior change strategy in overweight and obese adults: A systematic literature review examining intervention components. Patient Education and Counseling, 87(1), 32-42



RHODES, R., 2013. How big is the physical activity intention-behavior gap? A meta-analysis using the action control framework.

HAGGER, M. and N. CHATZISARANTIS, 2014. An Integrated Behavior Change Model for Physical Activity. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 42(2), 62-69

ALLAN, J., M. JOHNSTON and N. CAMPBELL, 2011. Missed by an inch or a mile? Predicting the size of intention–behavior gap from measures of executive control. Psychology & Health, 26(6), 635-650

Bandura, A., 1994.Self-Efficacy Defined. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 April 2020].

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