The why and the how of goal pursuit: Self-determination, goal process cognition, and participation in physical exercise

Rafer S. Lutz, Paul Karoly, Morris A. Okun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Objectives: To examine goal process cognition as a mediator of the relationship between self-determined motivational ratings and strenuous exercise participation. Design: Cross-Sectional Survey. Methods: University students (N=535) identified their most important exercise goal and rated this goal according to the nine goal process dimensions of the Goal Systems Assessment Battery (GSAB; [Karoly, P., & Ruehlman, L.S. (1995). Goal cognition and its clinical implications: Development and validation of four motivational assessment instruments. Assessment, 2, 113-129]), an instrument derived from Ford's [Ford, D.H. (1987). Humans as self-constructing living systems: A developmental perspective on behavior and personality. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum] control systems model of self-regulation. Additionally, students completed measures of self-determination for exercise and leisure-time exercise participation. A multiple mediator model was tested using the Preacher and Hayes [Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2007a). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in simple and multiple mediator models. Manuscript submitted for publication; Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2007b). SPSS and SAS macros for estimating and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Retrieved February 9, 2007, from] bootstrapping procedure. Results: The effect of self-determination for exercise on strenuous leisure-time exercise was fully mediated. Self-determination did not exert a significant direct effect and 72% of its total effect on strenuous exercise was indirect via the goal processes of self-monitoring, planning, and positive arousal for exercise goals. Conclusions: Findings support the utility of goal process cognition as a means of understanding how self-determination influences strenuous exercise behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-575
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Control systems theory
  • Goals
  • Multiple mediation
  • Self-determination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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