Tag Archives: goals

Ten Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

6643498911_c37d05483e_bThis is an annual post, with a new bit at the end!

Resolutions get a bad rap. There’s a lot of guilt in play, as people feel like they should make them. Other people make them and quickly break them: more guilt. Still other folks genuinely want to follow through but don’t know how.

As for me, I love setting a direction for the upcoming year. (I created a whole workbook-playbook for this purpose, called “Still Possible”! If you subscribe to my email newsletter you should have received it. It’s available to new subscribers too; click here.)

If you want to make some New Year’s goals stick, here are some tips that have worked for me and other people I know:

  1. Set an intention instead. Resolutions have always felt too brittle for me. (After all, when we don’t follow through, we say we broke them.) Intentions are more flexible. Listen to the difference between “I resolve” and “I set the intent.” The former feels like one of Harry Potter’s Unbreakable Vows; the latter points you in a worthwhile direction. Maybe you need the force of the former, but I like the latter because it can bend as our lives shift. And we can set intentions again and again. There’s a reason people in 12 step programs take things one day at a time.
  2. Make it a story. Most resolutions are vague goals that lack context. Donald Miller suggests we come up with stories instead. Stories are compelling, and they take us somewhere. According to Miller’s definition, a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. What could be a better framework for a New Year’s improvement project? “Lose weight” is a worthy goal, but without a concrete story to hang it on, it’s too easy to give up. So instead of getting in shape, a story-based resolution might be to complete a road race or do a big hike with friends.
  3. Explore the 5 W’s. In ninth grade journalism class I learned the basics of a news story: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. (Also How.) If you want your resolutions to stick, you need to spend some time with these questions. Say you want to cook at home more instead of eating out. Who will support you in this effort, and whom will be impacted by this lifestyle change? What will you do to make this happen? When will you plan, shop and cook? Where will this happen—do you need to de-clutter the kitchen? Stock the pantry? And most importantly, Why is it important that you do this?
  4. Take things monthly. Gretchen Rubin is a pioneer of this approach. Her book The Happiness Project chronicles a year-long self-improvement project with a different emphasis each month (money, home, family, etc.). Why not pick something modest to work on in January? Then on January 31 you get to celebrate your success (or shrug off your failure) and move on to something new in February.
  5. Pick a word. Many of my pastor friends hand out stars with words on them to their congregations on Epiphany Sunday—I’ve done it myself. These words become a prayer or meditation focus. For folks who find self-reflection tedious, there’s something serendipitous about being given a word to live with for a whole year.
  6. Let the resolution grow out of a deeper reflection. Ideally, a resolution, intention, or story will grow out of a period of reflecting on the year to come. In other words, don’t go for the same knee-jerk resolution you pick every year—it may not fit your life right now. If you’re about to move across country or get a promotion at work, it’s probably not the right time to take on a new hobby or join that CrossFit class. Or because of those changes, it may be the perfect time to take care of yourself. But the point is, your resolution needs to grow out of a realistic assessment of the year to come. I’ll be using the workbook I created to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017 (see above or subscribe here), but there are tons of tools like this on the Internet.
  7. Build in some No with your Yes. I’m convinced that a lot of resolutions fail because people add on habits or practices without taking other things away. So you want to spend 20 minutes each morning in prayer or meditation. OK… but what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen? (Additional sleep? that bleary-eyed early morning Facebook session?)
  8. Tell people. Every December my writing group would get together for a Christmas luncheon, and we would go around the table and share our writing goals for the coming year. Stating our goals aloud in the company of trusted friends was powerful. We are communal creatures—only the most disciplined among us can make a major life change without any support, encouragement or accountability from friends and family. If you’re one of those rocks or islands that Simon and Garfunkel sang about, congratulations. If you’re like the rest of us, tweet or Facebook your goals. Blog about them. Tell a friend. Heck, tell me in the comments—I will cheer you on!
  9. Take two steps, not just one. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people who take only one step toward an exercise or weight-loss regimen (like joining a gym) were more likely to engage in activities that were counterproductive (like bingeing on brownies). Meanwhile, their peers who took a follow-up step (working out right after joining the gym) were more likely to stick with their plan. So while Lao Tzu is right that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, don’t neglect the second step either.
  10. Focus on systems, not goals. I love this reflection from James Clear, in which he talks about the process as opposed to the destination: “I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress… Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win.” For example, the one year I set a mileage goal for running (1,000 miles) I got injured. Coincidence? Perhaps. But since then I’ve adjusted my approach and set different kinds of intentions: to run three times a week and to participate in various races along the way. In James Clear’s parlance, those are actually systems I’m putting in place rather than goals. I suspect they will result in a great end-of-year total mileage, but if they don’t, the journey still took me to great places, and that’s more important.

Do you have intentions or hopes for 2017? I’d love to hear.

Image is from elycefeliz on Flickr, used through a creative commons license.

Monday Runday: On Being a Family of Runners

James is doing a running challenge with me, in which we’re running 26.2 miles over the next 8 weeks. It’s been astounding how dedicated he’s been to this task.

13092151_10154101255193164_439828891086948370_n

Thanks to Facebook memories, I’m recalling that three years ago, I took the girls through Couch to 5K, two years after going through it myself. Since then, each girl has participated in Girls on the Run and assorted races here and there.

318841_10151558035868164_2009620124_n

2013

946020_10151587558328164_699821321_n935791_10151587558483164_1771938294_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert also runs, although he’s currently sidelined with a cranky Achilles.

Somehow, over time, we became a family of runners. 

I’m tempted sometimes to enroll my kids in club running activities–recreational track or cross country or somesuch. It’s startling how easily that thought jumps into my head. My kids enjoy this, therefore they should do it in an organized way. It’s what we do as parents. A kid’s interested in the guitar? We get them private lessons. They like to do art? Sign them up for pottery camp. They want to learn tennis? We find a league to join. At least where I live, that’s an implicit or explicit responsibility of a parent. We nurture through providing opportunities. And as the mother of a kid on the swim team told me a few years ago, it’s never too early to think about a child’s college application. (Her kids were in elementary school.)

Certainly there are benefits to team sports–a good coach can be one of those inspiring childhood influences that impacts a person’s whole life. And while running is an activity that we most of us learn to do naturally as children, there’s always stuff to learn. Still, I’m trying to resist the impulse to formalize this interest of theirs. Kids today are continually evaluated, graded, scantronned, judged and compared. Not with this. This is our limit.

Part of that comes down to money and time–there’s only so many enrollment fees we can handle, and only so much carting around we’re willing to do. (I have a friend who calls this phase of parenting “Carpool.”) But on a broader level, I want my kids to have something they can do purely for the joy of it. They can set goals, or not. They can strive to improve, or not. It’s entirely up to them.

And they’re teaching me a lot. I realize, as I continue to claw my way back from last fall’s injury, how easily I’d fallen into a mode of improvement and incessant goal-setting. This is painful to admit about myself, though will surprise nobody who knows me. (My friend J took a personality inventory that suggested she stop thinking about life as one big self-improvement project, and she was incredulous: “What else would it be???” Oh, my sister.)

And so, this is a new touchstone for me:

13047920_1156738141026975_8626597374710688407_o

 

 

 

My hopes and dreams are to be able to run for my entire life, to stay healthy and injury-free, to get an occasional PR through smart training, and to have a spirit of adventure in what I do.

When James runs, he says, “Look how fast I am!!!” I suspect if he joined a kids’ running team he would discover that, comparatively speaking, he isn’t fast. That’s the McKibben/Dana genetic lottery at work, and there’s only so much you can do to overcome that.

But at the end of our runs together, when the house is in sight, he turns to me, waiting for the signal. I say, “Now, James, turn on the gas!” and he does, leaving his mother in the dust… busting through whatever 8-year-old hopes and dreams he has, scattering them like leaves in the wind.

Monday Runday: Out with the Old, In with the New

Last week I shared some of my running and fitness goals from last year (none of which I achieved) and my hopes for 2016 (we’ll see in 12 months).

This weekend I had two experiences that perfectly encapsulated both the missed goals and my upcoming hopes.

New Year’s Eve was the Fairfax Four Miler, a night race around downtown Fairfax. Love the sweatshirt!

IMG_8788

For the race I decided to wear my SportKilt: clergy tartan. Because why not:

IMG_8798

I knew it was going to be a fun night before I even got out of the car. They’d given out glow sticks at packet pickup, but mine didn’t have a connector to make it into a necklace. Fortunately I rummaged through the detritus in my car and found an old drinking straw:

IMG_8795

 

MacGyver Runner! Let’s do this!

As for the race itself, I wasn’t particularly fast. I wasn’t fast on an absolute scale, and I wasn’t fast for me. But I felt great about this race. Before I got injured, I ran faster. But now post injury, I’m running smarter.

Since I’ve been back to running I’ve been working hard on run cadence. Many coaches and running experts encourage a faster cadence (close to 180 strides per minute) as a way to avoid overstriding, heel striking, and other form issues that can lead to injury. My cadence pre-injury wasn’t great–in fact I’m guessing it contributed to my stress fracture–so I’ve been intentional about increasing it by about 10 strides per minute.

Here’s a bit of a screen shot from my Garmin at Thursday night’s race. See all that green? That means I was in an ideal cadence for much of the race–and I wasn’t thinking about it. Yay!

FullSizeRender

 

I have no idea what the red is.

 

I wrote last week that my goal is to run races without checking my Garmin, instead running by feel. This was my first experience doing that and I really liked it. My goal was to run easy, which I did, but I was excited to see I maintained a consistent pace throughout. I often go out too fast and flame out midway through.

Part of the reason I took the race easy is because I wanted to have fresh legs for a mile time trial on my birthday. So Saturday morning (in 27 degree temperatures) I met a bunch of other intrepid ladies at a track in Springfield. We shared birthday treats, laughs, fleet miles, and some bleachers afterwards.

IMG_8813

This was my first time running a mile time trial with other people around, and with all the excitement and energy I went out way too fast. Like, more than a minute per mile faster than I should. I paid for that in lap three, which is always the one where I want to cry and die.

I finished my mile about 12 seconds slower than a year ago, 26 slower than six months ago. That’s better than I feared, though worse than I secretly hoped. But it’s a snapshot in time–and it was fun to do it on my birthday.

Most importantly, my leg didn’t hurt, at the race or during the mile.

Most MOST importantly, I experienced both the race and the mile surrounded by the most supportive, courageous, badass runner girls you can imagine.

I wish you the best in your own fitness goals–whatever they are.

Monday Runday: On Setting Goals and Breaking Hearts

IMG_8585

It’s the end of the year… time to take stock of 2015 and dream about what 2016 has in store. (Hey! If you want help with that process yourself, sign up to receive Gate of the Year, a workbook/playbook to guide you along the way. Sign up here. Learn more here. Coming in the next couple of days! Oh, and it’s not specific to running.)

My running goals for 2015 were to run 1000 miles, complete the Marine Corps Marathon, and participate in 12 races.

I didn’t achieve any of those goals.

In August I got injured and was sidelined from running for three months. It broke my heart, to be honest. And it wasn’t a gradual thing, in which I ignored the signs until it was too late. I was fine and dandy and kicking butt on my goals, until I quickly wasn’t.

It hurt.

But perspective is everything. Even with three months off, I ran 10 races, I PR’ed in the 10K, and I captained and drove for a Ragnar team that overcame injuries, illnesses and horrific weather to prevail on the 200 mile course.

I also grew to love pool running and swimming, and I got on the bike again for the first time in many years.

And I ran 750 miles. That’s far short of my goal. But it’s 150 miles more than I’ve ever run in a year.

So ultimately, I’m happy and proud.

Goals are a double-edged sword. If you make them too ambitious, they can actually sabotage your running through injury or burnout. But goals that are too squishy won’t spur you toward improvement, assuming that’s important to you (and it isn’t for everyone). Many people I know sign up for races because it gives them instant accountability. And of course races are fun. They’re really the victory lap after weeks and months of training.

Here are my goals for this year. I hesitate to even call them goals—they’re more like activities and intentions—but I hope they’ll keep me pointed toward true north on this running/fitness journey I’m on.

To remain injury free, as much as that’s within my control. Even though I got injured this year, I truly believe I listened well to my body, and will continue to do that in 2016. As I told myself when I was forced to take three months off, “I’d rather be running at age 90 than run during the next 90 days.”

To run three times per week and cross train 2-3 times, including strength. I used to run four to five times a week, but I’m nervous about returning to that schedule. Cross training is a healthy alternative, and it’s fun—and strength training is super important as we age. (Sigh.)

To do a race a month, though not always running for time. Two of those races will be triathlons, and I’m excited to be one of the people receiving free coaching through Tri-Equal to help me be successful in that event! I’ll be working with coach Julie Dunkle throughout the summer and I’m psyched.

When I do race, to do so without my Garmin. I want to run by feel instead of looking at a pace on a watch. My best 5K time came when my GPS flaked out and I had no idea what pace I was running. Instead I ran based on how I felt.

To run Marine Corps Marathon. This is gonna be a grudge match for me since I had to miss it. A marathon PR would be nice but that’s not a goal at this point.

To keep my easy runs truly easy. I’m a big fan of 80/20 running, in which 80% of your workout should be at an easy conversational pace. This keeps you in good shape so you can attack the other 20% at high intensity. Most recreational runners are at about a 50/50 ratio and there are various physiological reasons why that’s not as healthy or effective.

Do you have fitness goals? What are they?

~

Image is a mid-run selfie with the statue of Bob Simon, founder of Reston which I now call home.

Nine Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

An update from a previous post.

e2bea3ef389032a3b8df0afe7f7999c8Resolutions get a bad rap. There’s a lot of guilt in play, as people feel like they should make them. Other people make them and quickly break them: more guilt. Still other folks genuinely want to follow through but don’t know how.

As for me, I love looking back and looking forward. And I make resolutions, though I call them something else (see below). Whether I fulfill them or not is really secondary. This year I’ve decided to tackle this Ultimate Reading Challenge. And I’m setting a goal to run 1,000 miles in 2015. That’s about 20 miles a week, and feels ambitious but doable, since I’m running a half marathon in March and the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Training for those two races should put me at 750 easily, unless something happens.

And things do happen. Whether I achieve those goals or not, setting them is the important part for me. It points me in the direction I want to go.

Still, if you want to make some New Year’s goals stick, here are some tips that have worked for me and other people I know:

  1. Set an intention instead. Resolutions have always felt too brittle for me. (After all, when we don’t follow through, we say we broke them.) Intentions are more flexible. Listen to the difference between “I resolve” and “I set the intent.” The former feels like one of Harry Potter’s Unbreakable Vows; the latter points you in a worthwhile direction. Maybe you need the force of the former, but I like the latter because it can bend as our lives shift. And we can set intentions again and again. There’s a reason people in 12 step programs take things one day at a time.
  2. Make it a story. Most resolutions are vague goals that lack context. Donald Miller suggests we come up with stories instead. Stories are compelling, and they take us somewhere. According to Miller’s definition, a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. What could be a better framework for a New Year’s improvement project? “Lose weight” is a worthy goal, but without a concrete story to hang it on, it’s too easy to give up. So instead of getting in shape, a story-based resolution might be to complete a road race or do a big hike with friends.
  3. Explore the 5 W’s. In ninth grade journalism class I learned the basics of a news story: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. (Also How.) If you want your resolutions to stick, you need to spend some time with these questions. So you want to cook at home more instead of eating out. Who will support you in this effort, and whom will be impacted by this lifestyle change? What will you do to make this happen? When will you plan, shop and cook? Where will this happen—do you need to de-clutter the kitchen? stock the pantry? And most importantly, Why is it important that you do this? [Update: another way to look at this is to focus not on making goals, but on refining your systems.]
  4. Take things monthly. Gretchen Rubin is a pioneer of this approach. Her book The Happiness Project chronicles a year-long self-improvement project with a different emphasis each month (money, home, family, etc.). Why not pick something modest to work on in January? Then on January 31 you get to celebrate your success (or shrug off your failure) and move on to something new in February.
  5. Pick a word. Many of my pastor friends hand out stars with words on them to their congregations on Epiphany Sunday—I’ve done it myself. These words become a prayer or meditation focus. For folks who find self-reflection tedious, there’s something serendipitous about being given a word to live with for a whole year. (My 2014 word was compassion.)
  6. Let the resolution grow out of a deeper reflection. Ideally, a resolution, intention, or story will grow out of a period of reflecting on the year to come. In other words, don’t go for the same knee-jerk resolution you pick every year—it may not fit your life right now. If you’re about to move across country or get a promotion at work, it’s probably not the right time to take on a new hobby or join that CrossFit class. Or because of those changes, it may be the perfect time to take care of yourself. But the point is, your resolution needs to grow out of a realistic assessment of the year to come. I’ve been using this tool to say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015, but there are tons of tools like this on the Internet.
  7. Build in some No with your Yes. I’m convinced that a lot of resolutions fail because people add on habits or practices without taking other things away. So you want to spend 20 minutes each morning in prayer or meditation. OK… but what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen? (Additional sleep? that bleary-eyed early morning Facebook session?)
  8. Tell people. Every December writing group would together for a Christmas luncheon, and we would go around the table and share our writing goals for the coming year. Stating our goals aloud in the company of trusted friends was powerful. We are communal creatures—only the most disciplined among us can make a major life change without any support, encouragement or accountability from friends and family. If you’re one of those rocks or islands that Simon and Garfunkel sang about, congratulations. If you’re like the rest of us, tweet or Facebook your goals. Blog about them. Tell a friend. Heck, tell me in the comments—I will cheer you on!
  9. Take two steps, not just one. This one came from a recent issue of Runners World. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people who take only one step toward an exercise or weight-loss regimen (like joining a gym) were more likely to engage in activities that were counterproductive (like bingeing on brownies). Meanwhile, their peers who took a follow-up step (working out right after joining the gym) were more likely to stick with their plan. So while Lao Tzu is right that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, don’t neglect the second step either.

What are your hopes for 2015? If you’re not sure where to start thinking, check out my post from earlier this week, What Will Be in 2015?

~

Image source