Salvaging Your Failed New Year’s Goals
We’re a week into the new year and for many, the ambition and the glow of a fresh start is already starting to wear off. The old patterns are calling us back and this is where many people start to fall off the path (if they haven’t already). The “New Year, New Me!” excitement may have already devolved back into “New Year, Same Old Me”.
So are we screwed then until 2017? Maybe that’ll be the year that we can stick to the new game plan and achieve our performance/training goals.
Or, we can get it right this year. If you’re still on track with your goals, well done, keep it up. You might not need to read this, although you still may get something out of it. If you’ve already fallen off track, this post is for you. Sit down this weekend and restart your New Year’s goals, and this time, get them right.
Let’s first look at a couple of common mistakes that people make when it comes to goals. Many people, particularly around New Years, think that this is the year to change everything about themselves, to become the best version of themselves all at once. This is problematic because it requires too much time and too much willpower (both of which we only have a limited supply of each day). We muster up all of our energy and motivation and try so hard to be the ultimate human being. But, just like a sprinter can’t keep sprinting forever, it usually takes only a few days to a week before it just becomes too exhausting, and we default to lying on the couch eating Popeyes and drinking whiskey while binge-watching Netflix. Or some variation of that.
Maybe we’ve already tried that one out last year (and possibly even the year before as well) and we learned that it just won’t work, so we try the opposite. The second common goal-related mistake that people make is they make goals that are too easy. People will take their big goal and cut it into “a more manageable” goal. Instead of losing 100 lbs, they’ll decide to lose 20. Instead of training to run a marathon, they’ll decide to just train for a 5K.
Research shows that goals that are too easy don’t rouse the necessary energy and motivation that’s required to stick to them. Because the goals don’t force us to really work for them, they become not as attractive and we subconsciously tend to slack on them. We slowly get off our game and, although the drop-off isn’t as steep as for the “ultimate human being people”, the end result is the same.
So how then do we get around this? The first step is to make a list of every possible thing that you need to do to become the best athlete, person, whatever, that you want to be. Include in your list as many things as you can think of, both big things and small things (the small things many times are also bigger than we think) that you can do to become the ultimate you. The list may be fairly long, in fact it should be fairly long if we’re being honest with ourselves.
So now that we have our list, there are two different ways of approaching it.
The first approach is to go right for the head of the beast and tackle the biggest goal on the list (if you have multiple big goals, pick the one that you feel will give the biggest payoff). Once we choose that main goal, then we have to remove the others from our mind and focus solely on achieving that one goal.
Maybe it takes the whole year (or longer) to complete, and that’s ok. The best way to achieve the big goal is to break it down into actionable steps. These are things that we can do daily, weekly, and monthly, that will ultimately lead to the big goal being achieved. But while we break down the big goal for action, it’s crucial to keep the big goal what it is and to have that be the main focus. This strategy is good for the person who can easily block out the small noise and obsessively focus on achieving one task or goal. This strategy requires the most willpower, but also gives the biggest reward.
The second approach is to start with the smallest goal on the list. Maybe it’s simply to drink 2 liters of water a day, or to do some form of mobility work for 5 minutes a day. In this approach, the goal is to knock out as many small things as possible (by either achieving them, or making them an ingrained habit) as quickly as possible and progress up the list towards the large goals.
For some people, they can’t focus on working on one major thing while there are a bunch of small things that need to be addressed. For others, they aren’t used to achieving goals and aren’t sure whether or not they really have it in them to achieve their big goals. For these people, this approach is the best. They can knock out a bunch of small goals, gain momentum and willpower, and work their way up the ladder of goals until they finally achieve their big goal(s).
Both of these strategies work, it’s going to be up to you to find which one works the best for you. You may also have noticed while reading this, that these two forms of goal-achieving really aren’t that different in action, mostly just in the mindset that they require. As you go along with either process, you’ll notice that they are in many ways the same thing.
Let me explain.
If we choose the path of tackling the biggest goal first, we may notice that we naturally achieve many of the small goals in the process of achieving the big goal. We may find that in order to finish a marathon or lose 100lbs (big goals), we naturally decide to cut alcohol and excess sugar, we drink enough water to stay hydrated, and we make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night (smaller goals).
And conversely, if we choose to knock out the small goals first, we’ll notice that many times the big goals are much easier to achieve afterwards. Adding 25lbs of muscle (big goal) is much easier if we’ve already cut the alcohol and sugar, ensured that we’re always well hydrated, and made sure that we’re getting 8 hours of sleep a night (smaller goals).
Regardless of which approach you choose, you’re going to have to be on top of your game every day with energy and motivation. While motivation gets a bad rap in our society and can many times be seen as corny, it’s one of the most vital and important aspects of achieving any goal, regardless of whether you’re simply trying to lose 15lbs, or you’re trying to become a world champion. And it’s something that we need to cultivate daily if we really want to achieve our goals. Again, it’ll have to be personal to you, so find whatever works and make it a habit.
So don’t despair if you’ve fallen off track with your 2016 goals. It’s not to late to get back on the right path. Starting one week, or even one month, late probably won’t make much of a difference in the long run. The key is to have a strategy, a plan of attack, and to follow it.
Sit down with your all of your goals, develop a plan on how to conquer them, and then find the energy and motivation to be able to see it through. And remember that action is always a good way to remove self-doubt and to ensure progression. So good luck in whatever goals you have for this year, let’s all do our best to make 2016 our highest performing year yet!
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