The New Year is a time when many of us think about what we would like to do differently in the coming year. According to research the most popular resolutions are to lose weight and exercise more. I have to admit that I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions as I think there is a tendency for them to focus on stopping or giving up something rather than on the positive. This, along with the fact that they are often quite vague and not specific means that, according to US News, 80% of resolutions are broken by the second week of February! Instead of making resolutions I prefer to set goals, as these focus on doing something positive, specific and measurable and therefore more likely to be achieved.
So what will your 2018 goals be? Perhaps it is to do Couch to 5k, climb to the top of the climbing wall or swimming a mile non-stop? There are many different methods of working towards goals but I use a really simple one involving flip chart paper and post-it notes, which I’d like to share with you. Maybe it can help you achieve your own 2018 goals.
At the end of the year I take time to evaluate how things went during the last 12 months, review some learning points and think about setting my objectives for the next sporting season. Start to consider what your aims and goals will be for 2018, whether it is getting a Parkrun PB, doing your first triathlon or raising money from a charity challenge. Then you can start to plan the training you need to do to meet this goal. The goal should push you, so that you are motivated to work towards it but it should be achievable. There is no point in just setting yourself up for failure.
I divide my goals into three groups: Main Goals, Process Goals and Sub Goals. Last year I had two main goals 1) Win the British Quadrathlon Championship race (swim/kayak/bike/run) 2) Win the British Quadrathlon Race Series title. These two main goals were my focus and the reason I would be committing to hours of training through the cold winter months. I then had a number of process goals, which are goals to help you achieve your main goals. These can be any size goal, even really small. My process goals were: keep kayaking through the winter, try kayaking on an indoor kayaking machine, take mountain biking skills lessons (some races were off-road), run cross country races in the winter and the smallest – wear in my new racing trainers (for some reason I liked the comfort blanket of my old trainers and had been putting off racing in new ones!). Finally I had my sub goals, which were really my B type goals, so things I wanted to achieve but I wouldn’t get hung up if I didn’t. In the end I only had one sub goal, which was to be one of the point scorers for my running club in the Worcestershire County cross country championships. I managed to achieve this and our team won the team gold medal!
Once I have decided on my main, process and sub goals I write them on post-it notes – one goal per post-it. I then divide a piece of flip chart paper into four sections – one for each of the goals and then a DONE section and stick the post-it into the corresponding section. Obviously the DONE section is empty at this point – but not for long! I put the flip chart on the wall of my study where I would see it every day.
It didn’t take long for me to start to achieve the process goals and I had the satisfaction of moving the post-its into the DONE section of the flip chart. This may sound very simple but the process of moving the post-its was very satisfying and a great visual reiteration of movement towards the main goals. The chart also acts as a reminder of those goals that still need doing, rather than them just being on a to-do list in a closed notebook. If you aren’t moving any post-its then it is unlikely that you will achieve your main goal, as these mini-goals are what will enable you to achieve your season’s ambitions. If this is the case then you might need to change your goals. There is nothing wrong with this, as something may have happened that prevents you from going for the goal at this point in time, or you may be offered a different opportunity that you just can’t say no to. This happened to me in 2015 where my main aim was to win gold at the European Aquathlon Championships but that all changed when I was offered a place on the One Day Ahead team, which cycled the entire route of the Tour de France for Cure Leukaemia! Both my main goal and process goals changed and the post-its changed from swimming and running related ones to just cycling ones. You need to be focused to achieve goals but also flexible and open to change direction if that is the best thing to do.
Achieving your goals, both process and main ones is a great accomplishment and make sure you recognise this. Move your post-its into the DONE section and also reward yourself – you deserve it! This is a really important part of achieving your goals. Some people find it motivates them to decide on what reward they will have in advance e.g. a special meal, a new piece of sports kit. Keeping on track with your goal takes a lot of dedication and hard work and it is important that you recognise this for yourself and celebrate both the process goals and the main goals. Our minds love reinforcement, so rewarding yourself will make the mind want more rewards, almost like an addiction to progress, which means you will want to carry on working towards achieving more goals! It’s obvious really isn’t it, as everyone likes presents, even if they are to yourself! Don’t be afraid to share your success stories with others – vocalising your successes reinforces them in your mind. Is your achievement news worthy e.g. raising money for charity? Seeing reports of what you have done in a local newspaper reminds you of how well you have done and again is ‘juice for the mind’. You could create a success vision board with photos and newspaper cuttings that again will regularly remind your mind of the success you achieved and how you did it! The mind is a powerful muscle and like any other muscle needs training! So at the start of 2018 don’t tell yourself to give up something or stop doing something but rather set a positive goal and feel free to share your aims and progress with me or ask me any questions on Twitter via @helengoth.
Helen is the current British Quadrathlon Champion and British Quadrathlon Trophy Series winner. She is a former age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. In 2015 Helen was part of the One Day Ahead team, which raised £1m for Cure Leukaemia by riding the entire route of the Tour de France one day ahead of the pros. Helen is sponsored by the River Fitness Talented and Gifted Scheme. You can follow her on Twitter via @helengoth.