Each December as the year comes to a close, we all start evaluating the previous 12 months and begin looking toward the new year ahead of us. Many of us make resolutions, a decision to do (or not do) something, with the idea that a fresh year means a fresh you. Common resolutions that typically top the list include stopping smoking, working out more, losing weight, eating healthier, achieving or maintaining financial solvency, and spending more time with family and friends.
Reflect on last year. Did you stick to your resolutions throughout January? What about February?
What should you do when you fall off of the wagon in your attempt to make a better you for the new year? Do not fear. All is not lost. Some resolutions emerge without adequate planning and are often super broad in scope. Refine your goals and continue on.
At nine years old, Jordan Romero was inspired by a school mural depicting the Seven Summits (the highest point on each continent). He began researching each of the mountains on the list. Less than a year later and just at just 10 years old, he reached the summit of the highest point in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. This was just the fuel he needed to continue his quest to reach the highest point on each of the seven continents. He would come home from school each day and put on his loaded pack and tow a tire behind him down a road as part of his training.
After successful attempts on the high points in North and South America, Europe, and Australia, Jordan then set his sights on the world’s highest mountain. In May 2010, Jordan, along with his dad, step-mom, and three Sherpa guides, reached the summit of Mount Everest. At just 13 years old, this made him the youngest person to climb the mountain. In December 2012, he completed his goal by reaching the final summit in Antarctica. From inception until completion, it took six years.
Here are some tips (and some motivating input from the young mountaineer) from the now 23-year-old Romero to consider for creating a successful approach to your quest.
If your ultimate goal is to run a marathon, but it’s been years since you’ve run or even seriously walked for exercise regularly, then make the marathon your long-term goal and set short-term goals toward reaching the starting line. Consider signing up for a local 5K race — that’s just 3.1 miles and more attainable in the short-term than 26.2 miles. It may be that it takes more than one year to reach that goal, but that’s OK.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in, and day-out.” – Robert Collier
If you want to lose a specific amount of weight, set a long-term goal but also break the larger number into more achievable numbers. This will prevent you from becoming frustrated and potentially bailing on the goal entirely.
“I’ve found that inaction is a slow killer of dreams coming to reality and that’s why doing something every day to chip away at your goal is what makes it possible,” Romero says.
Maybe it’s Girl Scout cookie season and it’s easy to get lured into breaking that resolution to abstain from sugar (or to eat healthily). Or, perhaps, there’s a birthday celebration for a family member or co-worker and you simply must have a piece of cake.
Allowing yourself to fail from time to time can strengthen your resolve to stay the course for the long haul. Don’t quit entirely because you slip up once, twice, or even three times. Stay the course.
It’s also advantageous to adapt as you progress. If you’re not seeing the results you anticipated, go back to the drawing board and regroup. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds and you hit a plateau at 15, don’t give up on the goal. Rather, consider what it will take to push beyond that threshold and continue your journey to reach your goal.
Life is full of hurdles. Consider them more like speed bumps than brick walls. Don’t focus on the failure but rather on how to get back on track.
Just like Romero, you have to be realistic when setting goals. At nine years old, he wasn’t physically or mentally ready to go straight to Mount Everest. His father, Paul, wanted to see his son’s commitment to the project before he would even agree to go climb the first of the Seven Summits.
With all endeavors, things worth having take hard work, diligence, and often patience. Rarely do things just fall in our laps without putting forth some effort.
“Any individual’s passion or goal is going to often require sacrifices,” says Romero. “The idea of coming home to pull a tire with a backpack on right after school four to five days a week wasn’t the most enticing idea for an 11-year-old. But that’s where the idea of simply showing up every day comes into action. After months of doing this, I was so grateful for the strength built required to pull a sled over multiple miles of glaciers on Denali.”
Let’s go back to running for a minute. Very few people can go from being a couch potato to running a marathon without putting in the training. So make sure to choose an activity that you like. I know that sounds simplistic but if you choose a lofty goal doing something that you don’t like, you are unlikely to be successful in your venture.
How many of us are guilty of making broad goals that just don’t provide any direction for us and are generally doomed from the start?
Here are some examples of overly broad goals:
- Eat better.
- Get more quality sleep.
- Get in shape.
These aren’t specific enough. And while they sound good, they don’t provide direction or a true end goal.
- Eat a fruit or vegetable with each meal daily.
- Go to sleep each night by X time.
- Walk (or go to the gym ) X times/week. For more clarity, define a time frame.
- If you’re not a morning person, don’t schedule an early morning gym visit.
“Any project that’s overwhelming and seemingly unobtainable will often put you in a position of not knowing where to start,” says Romero. “Therefore, solidifying your objective at the start of each day is key to staying on a consistent path.”
The best way to stay motivated is to have a great support system. This can come in the form of a spouse, friend, or co-worker. Anyone that has a similar goal can be a great motivator when you aren’t feeling like going to the gym, taking that early morning run, or staying on track toward whatever goals you have set.
Also, if you desire to run a local race, go ahead and sign up for one that is within your time frame for getting into the training. Nothing can be more motivating than a looming date with a starting line. It can also keep you on track with your training.
Lastly, when you reach a goal, reward yourself. If that reward involves a doughnut, then enjoy every bite. If you’ve hit your training goals for a distance run, treat yourself to a massage or a new pair of running shoes.
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