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Fit for what Purpose?

As we wake up today in 2017, maybe having enjoyed a bit of Jools Holland's Hootenanny last night, it’s time to start making plans for the coming year. But to look ahead we need to take stock of where we have been first. Over the Christmas/Chanukah break, I’ve been doing one of three things:

  • Mountain biking

  • Sleeping

  • Reading

From my reading material I’ve learned about the sacred and the profane (Holy Sh*t, A Brief History of Swearing) and a variety of topics in the Economist Christmas Special, including the history of Mario, IPA beers and clothespegs. But the most interesting has been a relatively slim tome, called ‘Drive’, by Daniel H. Pink. This isn’t the book about existential morality intercut with moments of violence, then made into a great movie starring Ryan Gosling. Instead it is subtitled, “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.

Daniel’s handy 140 character summary of the whole book is as follows:

“Carrots and sticks are so last century.

For 21st Century work we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.”

To unpack that a little, lets define some terms:

  • Autonomy: the desire to direct and control your own life

  • Mastery: the urge to get better at something that matters

  • Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in service of something bigger than ourselves

Scientists have long understood that we have some basic biological needs: hunger, thirst and sex. And we all know that we tend to respond to external/extrinsic rewards and punishments, too. But in the last 50 years or so, a third drive has been discovered: “intrinsic motivation” – doing something for the love of doing it, for the satisfaction of taking on a challenge, or simply because it is fun.

When we got started in personal training, we wanted to do something different than just get people to do ever more repetitions of ever more exercises just for the sake of it – something we ourselves find really dull.