I've made a resolution this year not to make New Year's resolutions. I'm pretty confident it's one I'll be able to keep. It's not that I don't think we shouldn't have goals or that we shouldn't strive for self-improvement. It's that New Year's resolutions are inherently problematic and often perpetuate a cycle of perceived failure, undermining our efforts to achieve our goals in the long term. For example, I've never had a conversation about New year's resolutions in any month other than January. At a Christmas party: "I'm really pleased that I managed to stick to my New year's resolutions this year." Said no one. Ever.
New Year's resolutions are a strange tradition; when else in the year would we think it was a good idea to make a long list of all the ways in which we could be a better human being? If we do set goals in normal life, usually we do it a bit more sensibly, tackling one thing at a time in one or two areas of our lives. But on January 1st, we decide that a much better approach to goal setting is to make as many unrealistic, life-changing, and panic-induced resolutions as possible.
So I've got a new approach. What if, instead of looking forward to the year ahead, January became a time to look back at the year that just passed? Armed with the confidence of having achieved things in 2016 we had dismissed at the time or forgotten about completely, perhaps we would take a more constructive approach to our 2017 goals (if we have any)?
It has been suggested that New Year's resolutions often fail because we try to do everything all at once: lose weight, get fit, make more effort with friends/family, save the world. By mid February when resolutions have gone out of the window, we are left frustrated and our self-esteem takes a knock. We may question our ability to ever achieve our goals. Particularly with fitness goals, it is easy to get so caught up in the endless pursuit of improvement and progress that we forget how far we have come. How far have you come in the last year? This doesn't have to be a Queen of the Mountain on Strava (although it can be). It can be any kind of positive change or progression, as long as it holds value for you. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Which qualities enabled you to do these things?
2. Did you plan to achieve them? If so, how?
3. Why do you think you managed to achieve them?
4. What was your motivation?
5. Did your environment help? For example, exercising with others rather than alone.
If we can examine the process which led to our achieving goals, perhaps we can use this as a template for our 2017 goals. In addition, the process of reflecting on achievements will (hopefully) put us in a confidence-filled state of mind to approach new challenges. We can also recognise that our previous accomplishments rarely begin and end in January.
(Or you can completely eschew any kind of goal-setting and enjoy everything exactly how it is at this exact moment).