A better way to set goals

It’s the New Year! The chance to turn your life around right?
Well I don’t know about you but lately soooo many motivational posts I’ve seen have been boring and repetitive.
Maybe it’s because I follow too many sports and fitness websites or perhaps it’s just that it was the holidays and people were getting lazy, but leading up to the end of last year I was drowning in a deluge of trite and overused so-called motivational advice on everything from how to run more often to how to stick to a diet.
vegan cat
You know the sort:
Lose 10 kilos in a month with a summer juice cleanse!
Never skip a workout again with our secret guidelines for self-discipline!
Our top 5 tips on how to stop being a big fat loser and morph into Jillian Michaels on speed!

superglue diet

Quite apart from the basic nature of the articles – they just weren’t in depth enough – every single one of them had a big problem: they relied on willpower, money and/or wishful thinking to make them work.
Obviously money helps a lot in keeping your lifestyle healthy and relaxing, but who has pots of cash to spend on fancy fitness trainers, a personal chef and unending babysitters to mind your kids while you work out 6 hours a day? AND BESIDES, if simply wanting to be healthy and beautiful was all it took then we’d all look like Victoria’s Secret models right?

No, for your average Joe it takes hard work and a smart approach to genuinely improve your health, fitness and lifestyle.
What I look for in a practical motivational read is something that spells out the best way to actually convince my brain to do something good for it. Even if it’s a trick, as long as I can give myself a logical reason to want to do this new habit then most of the battle is won.
And, because most brains really prefer instant gratification, another subject that is good to hunt down is ways to teach yourself how to improve your ability to delay gratification.

With that in mind, here are my top 5 most psychologically effective and constructive New Year’s Resolution reads:

5. First up, get this mistake out of the way: Why people Fail to Achieve Their Goals.
Two of these (fear of failure and feeling unworthy of the end result) are really tricky – we don’t always know when we think we’re not good enough. But our subconscious knows and it is scared shitless of you achieving that goal because
a) it is the great unknown and
b) it doesn’t think you deserve it.
Get confident, practice believing you deserve the rewards this goal will bring and you will drastically reduce the chances of self-sabotage.

4. A simple one. Be a little more patient: The Hidden Factor In Fail.
And a little more tenacious. Don’t give up at the last hurdle.
This article also had a very important message hidden in there:
“Your goals are not the answer to your prayers and they’re not the things that will set you free. They’re just targets to aim for and organizing principles for your actions, generally based on a best guess at what you’ll enjoy doing, being, or having at some point in the future.”
Good to remember.

edison quote

3. Seeing as we’re going for the intellectual approach here, why not see how an actual psychologist suggests you go about keeping a resolution:
Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick. I particularly like items 6 & 7. Running teaches you to do away with ‘all or nothing’ thinking. There is no way you can finish training for something long term like a marathon with a few extreme efforts; it takes lots of little regular efforts that sometimes don’t actually feel very effort-ful at all. Then, finally, you look back and see just how far you’ve come. It’s always an amazing feeling.
This leads into number 7 on that list – forget being perfect. Lots of regular trying – even when it’s full of mistakes – beats a few perfect training runs every time. And that goes for many things in life, not just running.


2. Take stock: The 5 Step Self-Improvement Overhaul. Use this list to give you ideas on exactly which areas to improve.
Personally I think this list is a little overwhelming, but there are a few very good ideas in there, like reminding yourself how galvanising a Big Scary Goal can be, or the meditative bliss that comes from simplifying your day to day activities and interactions. Concentrating on a few big goals rather than lots of little, unimportant ones will get you a lot further. It’ll piss some people off, trust me on that, but as long as you keep the special people in your life happy you can afford to ignore those other naysayers. Let them sit on the couch and Netflix their lives away. I’ve got stuff to do!

1. If you only bother to follow one of these links, make it this one.
Your goals are overrated. Mark Manion’s excellent piece explains how we should be developing habits rather than goals, and the best order in which to develop those habits so as to build your strengths up exponentially, rather than the hard way – brick by brick.
Surprise, exercise is top of the list!

As for my goals? Right now I am just concentrating on getting through Two Bays on Sunday 17th January, as well as dealing with a rather stressful separation from my partner. But as usual running helps so much with it all, and one of the reasons we split was that my ex thought my running was a waste of time, time that should be better spent sitting on the couch drinking with him. So believe me when I say I am really ready to turn some long-held dreams into reality this year.

But that is for next post. For now, wish me luck on Sunday!

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