Better than the Last

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

It’s that time of year.  The time when we reflect and reminisce over the last 365 days and conjure a list of goals and aspirations for the coming 365.  This is the time where our hope for the future is as strong and resolute as it ever will be.  As such it is the perfect opportunity to use the prospect of a fresh slate as a launching point to dream about the year ahead, refocus your energies and redouble your efforts.  But in order to cement real lasting change with that reset of the calendar, you need more than just dedication and persistence.  You need a plan to go the distance.  So let’s go over some strategies for setting and realizing your ambitions this coming year.

  1. Do set goals.  Be specific.

New Year’s Resolutions, or goals as they’re known in other months, often get a bad rap – unfairly I say.  The problem isn’t in dreaming up new challenges or pushing yourself in new directions.  The problem is in not being explicit about what the endgame of that dream is.  In order to set a plan to pursue your goal and know when you’ve succeeded, you need to know precisely what the benchmark is.  So for example, instead of saying “I want to be a faster runner” what you need to say is “I want to improve my marathon time by 5 minutes.”  Specificity tells you what you need to focus on to succeed.  So if you want to improve your marathon time, you’d want to focus on marathon training. If you simply say, get faster, there’s no precise direction or course of action.  Stay away from adjectives, stick to measurable clearly defined metrics, where there is no ambiguity about meaning.

2. Have many goals, both big and small.

There’s just one limitation you want to put on your goals and that is make sure it’s specific.  Otherwise dream big and be bold!  Only keep in mind that big goals take big time to accomplish.  Huge PRs and big jumps in fitness can only come with consistency over the long haul.  That may take 1 year to accomplish or even 5 years.  The timeline is infinite but you will absolutely want some smaller goals to check off on your journey.  What can you achieve in 1, 2 or 3 months?  What milestones or practices can you solidify that will propel you towards that ultimate pursuit a year or more in the making?  Think about the “little” things that add up.  In running that’s usually the basics we often overlook, like getting enough sleep, spending time stretching and rolling, or doing core work.  The flashy big goals may be what ultimately excites you, but making and checking off those small goals will provide the motivation to keep going and will set you on the path to further success.

3. Keep track.  Build a network of accountability.

One of the major benefits of working with a coach is in having someone who is guaranteed to track your progress and hold you accountable to a plan.  But even if you’re totally on your own in your endeavors and challenges, you will need a record of your efforts and a support system to succeed.  There are many online options and apps where you can keep track of your progress, or if you prefer you can use spreadsheets and lists, or the calendar and dry erase board that hangs on your wall.  Whatever you prefer, the apparatus is not as important as the ability to see it, daily and often.  There is great value in a visual clue and frequent reminders.  So if you go the digital route I recommend keeping it open at all times on your computer and programming regular calendar/alarm reminders on your phone.  A human accountability network works similarly.  Out of sight means out of mind, so if your network includes a running buddy or run club, make sure you schedule regular meet ups.  You can also enlist the help of your significant other or best friend who isn’t training.  Tell them your goals, share your progress and seek out motivation when your focus is flagging.

4. Don’t be afraid to fail or start over.

Lastly, give yourself grace.  There’s no such thing as perfection.  Especially when it comes to pushing yourself in new ways.  Expect to be uncomfortable at times.  Expect to have a few setbacks along the way.  Meet these challenges head on.  If you miss a few days, get right back into it as soon as you can.  If you are short on time, make use of whatever you have.  Bottom line, don’t let imperfection, excuses or fear of mistakes be a dealbreaker.  The only way to create the desired habits and skills you want, is by doing – over and over again.  Practice, invest in yourself, and take each day as it comes.

If you’d like further guidance to achieve your goals, consider my in-person or online virtual coaching options. Both include the flexibility and accountability you need.  If you don’t see what you’re looking for or have further questions, please send me an email.  I’d love to hear from you.

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