runners

Research shows that nearly 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the second week of February. Despite the best of intentions, most of us fall short.

If you’re missing out, it may be time to challenge yourself in a different way.

There’s goal setting and then there’s big, lofty goal setting—as in completing 100 repetitions of one thing. The purpose is to create your own luck through habit-forming, thereby improving the quality of your life in a huge way. A recent article by the awesome crew at Fizzle highlighted the importance of doing it balls-to-the-wall style, and why this matters.

Here’s why the number 100 is crucial to me.

In January 2015 I suffered a near-fatal asthma attack. I’ll spare you the details because let’s face it, people are fighter bigger battles every single day. Plus, feeling sorry for yourself (or others) never works anyway.

So the thing about severe asthma is you’re typically prescribed long-term steroids to reduce the inflammation in your bronchial passageways and lungs. And thank the good Lord for that, but the problem is long-term use comes with a price to your internal organs. Believe me, I don’t want to find out what that looks like 10 or twenty years hence. I’ve talked to my amazing pulmonologist about options, but he’s not sold about medication tapering just yet…

I finally decided to get serious about finding a more holistic remedy to control my symptoms and hopefully get off meds at some point. After trolling Dr. Google and other internet sites, I came across several stories of asthmatics who eventually became symptom-free through running. But not just running around the block before dinner, or jogging to Baskin Robbins for a cookies and cream cone, or the occasional sweaty jaunt with friends on Sunday, like, a ton of miles.

Usain Bolt aside, I had to laugh because I am possibly the worst runner of all time: flat feet, no stride, kick or cadence, deviated septum, and of course, my little lung issue.

I asked myself what would happen if I didn’t try running as a method to strengthen my lungs and cardiovascular system.

Let’s just say the answer was less appealing than strapping on my Nike’s and wheezing around the local high school track four times.

And if you follow me on Instagram (and please do!), you know that I recently finished mile 25 of 100.

“So how the hell does this help me, Linda?,” you’re probably wondering.

Well I’m glad you asked because we’re all fighting some mountain, and if small goals aren’t doing it for you, perhaps stepping up and thinking big and audacious just may…

But for now, allow me to digress and highlight an important psychological tenet which will help you achieve your goals in the long run (pardon the pun).

A forgotten component of goal setting is the cost of doing something different. For example, if you decide to clean up your diet and forgo processed foods, buying organic is going to eat up more of your weekly food budget. As a result, you must choose another area to cut back. Or if going to therapy is your new venture, you will need to factor in the extra time, energy and money you’ll expend by participating in weekly sessions. How and where will you compensate?

Second, you will need the cooperation of others in some way, shape or form. Case in point: While leaving the running trail last Sunday, I headed up the narrow hillside toward the exit of the nature center. A white SUV was blocking the exit which made it impossible for me to see if I could safely turn right. I waited for a sec as the driver was bowed in silent prayer to the almighty mobile device. I continued waiting. No go. I then beeped my horn and the driver backed up. As I’m making the slow right, I see two cyclists coming behind me. I then realized the SUV was likely “spotting them” on their ride. I’m driving slowly because I don’t know if the first cyclist wants to pass me. “Go, go!!” he rudely yells, motioning for me to move forward. My gut reaction was to yell back, “Calm down, asshole! Get your driver on point!” Because that always helps.

My point here is that changing your life will likely place you at the mercy of others. You will need them to do something, or not do something. Plan ahead and bite your tongue when necessary. And don’t be an ass.

 

Here are the 5 most important steps to goal-setting, according to research:

1. Write your goals. A study by the Dominican University found that people who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals. Daydreaming and relentless fantasizing may actually reduce your odds of achieving goals. So get serious and put pen to paper (or fingers to word doc).

2. Be clear about why this goal is a must-have. Think in detail about how your life will be different when you reach your goal (or what will happen if you don’t): I will finally leave my dead-end job, I will no longer fear social situations, My health will deteriorate if my blood pressure continues rising.

3. Make it measurable. Goals aren’t reachable if you don’t have a plan. In order to do so you need to track your progress. For example, “I want to be happier” isn’t a goal. However, this is: “I will be happier when I am able to:

  • sleep for 6-7 hours per night
  • have the energy and motivation to go to the gym 3 times a week, and
  • have less than two arguments with my fiancé during weekends”

4. Break it down. Segmenting makes the finish line less daunting and more achievable. Benchmarks are a great way to keep you on track. You may find you are moving more quickly or slowly than you anticipated. Believe me, completing 25 miles in four weeks is nothing to write home about, but the plan is to add extra miles weekly. Don’t worry about what others are doing. You’re the expert on your life and you know your limits. (You do know your limits, right? If not, I’ve got you covered here).

5. Celebrate successes. This is key to keeping you motivated. Every step counts. Now there is a caveat: Don’t go overboard and self-sabotage. If your goal is to eat cleaner for 100 consecutive days, diving into a pint Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey on Day 7 will set you back. A few creamy bites, however…

Remember, research shows that nearly 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the second week of February.

Don’t be that guy.

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For an in-depth tutorial on goal-setting, including the ever-popular SMART plan, check out Team Happy. If you prefer stepping up boot-camp style, go here.

Sharing is caring, so please help spread the good mental health word by passing along this resource to your favorite social media site.

Yours in goal-setting, come what may,
—Linda

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