Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year's Resolutions?

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

'Which road do I take?' she asked.

'Where do you want to go?' was his response.

'I don't know,' Alice answered.

'Then,' said the cat, 'it doesn't matter'.”
–Lewis Carroll, From Alice in Wonderland

If what you are doing is worth doing, hang in there until it is done.”
–Nido Qubein

"If your goal is worth doing, it's worth starting now."--Alex Gardner (aka, "me")

Here are the six most popular New Year's Resolutions for Americans:

1 Lose Weight
2 Pay Off Debts
3 Save Money
4 Get a Better Job
5 Get Fit
6 Eat Right

But yet, also according to Wikipedia, recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a Resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals! [emphasis mine]

That means that if you make a New Year's Resolution, your goal is likely to be in the area of health and fitness. And, if you are typical, you have about a one in ten chance of success.

That seems just about right. I dread the months of January and February at the gym. I've had many memberships in several regions of the country. And it's always the same. January is the most crowded month, with people fresh and hopeful of their new goals. But as March approaches.. things return to normal, and the load at the gym is the same as it ever was.

Here are my thoughts on increasing your chances of reaching your goal(s):
  1. Set measurable goals. Don't say "lose weight." Say, "Lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks." Or something appropriate like that.
  2. Set something lofty, but achievable. This may mean breaking your goals up into smaller chunks. If you need to lose 50 pounds, make your first goal losing 10 pounds by a certain date. Then, evaluate and celebrate your success and go from there.
  3. Start now. This might be the biggest one. If it's worth doing, it's worth starting now. Abandon the "Fat Tuesday" mentality, and start working on your goals today. Skip pigging out until January 1st--it only makes that goal further out of reach.
  4. Don't give up. If you blow it one day, don't let it derail you. If you have a hard day, remember that no truly worthy goal is going to be easy. I have to tell myself that latter statement several times per month.
  5. Tell someone else to hold you accountable. Incredibly powerful, it's one thing to let yourself down. But, if you know someone else is watching, you're more likely to succeed. And who knows? They might even help you.
On a personal note, here is what I've set out for myself to achieve in the next year, taking each of these above suggestions into account:
  1. Run a 22 minute 5K this Spring. I'm already working on it, and hope to have a baseline when I race on January 25, 2009. This is an extremely exciting and challenging goal, and possibly the hardest thing I've ever attempted personally.
  2. Qualify for Boston '10 this Fall. I tried last year, and just missed. I'm not giving up. I feel stronger than ever, and I will make it. Requires a 3:50 marathon at a qualifying event. Pretty sure that's going to be easier than goal 1, above.
  3. Read through a different translation (Message) of the Bible by December 31, 2009. I started the day after I finished a similar 40 day journey a week ago. No reason to wait until January 1st.
  4. Keep my weight near 110 pounds. For me, this actually requires work in both directions. In the last three months, I've weighed as little as 107, and right now am nearly 115 (I'm 5' 6"). Now is a good time for me to have some buffer, as my mileage and cross training are increasing rapidly, and I tend to drop weight too quickly. Losing weight is helpful to running only if you have it to lose. Not so great if you are too skinny (any ideas what might have contributed to my stress fracture?).
Best wishes to everyone for a prosperous and Happy New Year!


amy said...

Great article on New Years Resolutions! Would it be possible to republish it in the Know How section of Runners Lounge with a link back and credit to you? Runners Lounge is a free social website for runners with a goal to collect the best information from "ordinary runners". Your article on resolutions would be a great one to add.


runner-grrl said...

Amy, Thanks for the kind words. Please feel free to republish. I'm checking the site out now. --Alex

Nagana said...

it looks to me (in my humble opinion) that You are takin git in the RIGHT way. As a runner You know that the key to achieve good results and keep Yourself motivated at the same time there must be a good balance between "Skills" and 'Challenge". Besides the fact that there are people who theorised entire approaches on this simple statement it acutally is the base of ANY improvement. How many friends do we all have that has lost a LOT of weight in a SMALL amount of time just to see them not 'digesting' this and getting back to being unsatisfied shortly after. Same for runners wanting to do too much too fast.
I am sure You will succeed. You have the dedication and love for life.

I wish You success.

merry (belated) Christmas

runner-grrl said...

Nagana, aka miczac.. so good to hear from you! You have been too quiet lately, and I still wait to read your marathon race report. In English anyway :-) Merry Christmas to you as well! Thanks for the comment!

Andrus said...

This blog post is music to my ears! I'm a big believer in "starting now" not just making resolutions once a year (and perhaps being slightly drunk from bubbly). I also thing sharing your resolutions openly greatly helps to keep them.

So much so that myself and two friends created Pledgehammer on our free time. It provides an easy way to write resolutions down, have a concrete deadline and share with whoever you want to share them with. It also has a charitable 'flipside' to it - if you can't stick to your resolution Pledgehammer asks you to donate money to charity. So whether you keep your resolution or not, either way the world will be a little bit better.

My flat mate just pledged to run a marathon in 2009 for the first time. Would love to know if Pledgehammer helps him and other runners keep their resolutions.

runner-grrl said...

Andrus, Thanks for the comment. I took a look at your Pledge Hammer site. I really like the idea... something good can come out of keeping the commitment... or not. I especially liked the goals with the promise of a larger donation. Shows commitment. Anything worth achieving will require a sacrifice :-).

Hope your friend makes the marathon in '09! --Alex