We’re already a month into 2021. By now, you’ve likely gone through the age-old, end-of-year tradition that looks a little something like this:
- Holiday bingeing ensues, and moderation is thrown out the window.
- Next comes self-loathing. You have a stern conversation with yourself about how this isn’t helping your 2021 athletic goals.
- Determined to conquer, you write strict, hard, and fast resolutions that will begin the moment the ball drops.
- You’ve broken all your resolutions by the end of January. Oh well. Maybe next year.
While you may know this process all too well, there is hope – and better ways to bring about meaningful change in your habits. Rather than setting unreasonable expectations for yourself that often lead to “failure”, it’s time to start setting manageable goals that set you up for success. Take a cue from the victories of Team Sky (now Team Ineos): their philosophy of marginal gains has allowed them to dominate the cycling circuit. Here’s why big, strict resolutions are often flawed, and how you can make attainable ones more likely to stick.
Move away from overly restrictive goals.
Many people put themselves under too much pressure with overly restrictive resolutions. Goals that are black and white are usually unrealistic, and a small slip can lead to immediate defeat. For example, your hypothetical resolution is to have no desserts until after your race, which is six months from now. So when you forgetfully grab a cookie on a coffee spin with your mates, you have failed. Before you know it, you’re buying Reese’s Pieces in bulk on Amazon because what’s the point, anyways?
Instead, try setting flexible goals to ease yourself into the new regime. In this scenario, every other day is sweet-free, so you can enjoy your (small) indulgence on that coffee spin. Change is hard, so make it easier on yourself by implementing micro-changes. Once these grow into sustainable habits, you can challenge yourself a bit more.
It’s not all or nothing.
Striving to maintain your resolutions doesn’t have to be all or nothing, black or white, pass or fail. We are humans, and we make mistakes. That doesn’t mean we fail.
Rather than looking at goals as pass or fail games, start to see them as benchmarks for gradual improvement. If you are feeling down because you missed a bunch of training sessions in January and your best was six consecutive days, don’t fret. Look to beat that number in February, even by just a little. Then, when you hit a 13-day streak, you’ll feel like you’re really getting somewhere.
Don’t be so negative! Set positive goals.
I find negative goals pretty oppressive. No beer for the month of January is just depressing. Due to the OCD side of my athlete brain, I feel like I can never get to the finish line – and feel cheated as a result!
Instead of setting goals that limit, reduce, or squelch, try setting positive goals that add value to your training. This could be the addition of 10 minutes of stretching every morning, or eating three pieces of fruit a day. These goals give you the sense of satisfaction that comes from having accomplished something positive. Avoiding something negative isn’t nearly as fulfilling.
There is no magic start date.
While the start of a new year is an enticing time to map big changes, it’s not the only time you should do so. Instead of being limited by a yearly event, look for dates throughout the year that could help you set goals.
These could be deliberate (think birthdays, holidays, seasonal changes, etc.) or they could be spontaneous. Whatever they are, be the captain of your own ship. Look to continuously create new goals, and check in with existing ones, when it best suits your schedule and lifestyle.
I hope these suggestions will help your 2021 resolutions stick. Striving to establish good habits will help you along the road to achieving your goals – whatever they may be. Good luck this year!