How to achieve our New Year’s resolutions successfully

We have just started a new year and like every year, we establish resolutions that we want to achieve during the next 365 days, whether it is to improve our physical condition, abandon less healthy habits, expand our knowledge, finish projects, or achieve goals.

At the begining of January, the motivation is very high and we begin the path towards our resolutions for this new year. However, these goals are often relatively ambitious, and as the weeks go by, that motivation begins to wane and we quit many of the goals we had originally set for ourselves.

In order to achieve these purposes successfully, it is essential to establish objectives through strategic planning designed to help us achieve them.

Many studies confirm that goal-setting is a change technique that generates effective behavior that helps us focus on what we really want to achieve. Likewise, it increases our levels of motivation to try to achieve our goals successfully by directing our attention and using the necessary energy to do so.

If we want to achieve our New Year’s resolutions, we need to develop a proper goal setting system.

Our goals must be realistic, but at the same time ambitious. They shouldn’t be too easy to achieve, but neither impossible.

Likewise, we must follow the principle of progression and scaffolding (mental abilities are based on those previously worked on).

For example, we can use the SMART goal approach, which is a well-established tool that you can use to set your goals.

This SMART acronym aims to break down five key aspects to achieving goals, and each letter represent the following concepts:

Specific,
Measurable,
Attainable,
Realistic and
Time based

However, my approach is this:

I start with the long-term goals (six months to two years). I write them down on a piece of paper and then I put it in a drawer. This way, I can check out my long term goals, if necessary, but they are not in front of me all the time. The everyday process is much more important. 

Then I write down the mid-term goals (twelve weeks to six months), and finally the short-term goals (from one to twelve weeks).

You can always adjust the duration for each goal, but remember that they should, at least potentially, be achievable. So, challenging but achievable. Otherwise, they may negatively affect your motivation.

For example, this year one of my main goals is to finish my book “The champion´s mindset”. A handbook on sports psychology aimed at athletes, coaches, parents of athletes or anyone who wants to learn to perform under pressure.

I started writing the book in 2021 when I was working as a university lecturer and researcher. During that year I managed to write a third of the manuscript. However, at the end of December of that year I returned to work for the Royal Spanish Canoeing Federation as technical director. A job that takes most of my time and for that reason, during 2022 I had to put this project aside.

Now, I want to resume it and I hope to be able to have it ready by the end of this year. Here is the first part so that you can download it for free. I hope you like it.

As an example to help you understand my system, these were the goals I set for myself in December 2010 when I broke my leg in a motorcycle accident nine months before the 2011 World Championships and Olympic Qualifiers.

Here we go:

Long-term goals: What is my main goal?

  1. In nine months go to the World Championships and earn an Olympic spot for London 2012 
  2. In 21 months compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Mid-term goals: What do I want to achieve in the next few months so I can get closer to my main goal?

  1. In five months: qualify for the Spanish Team to take part in the first international competitions of the season
  2. In eight months: qualify for the World Championships

Short-term goals: What do I want to achieve in a daily or weekly basis so I can be in track toward my main goal?

  1. Weeks 1 to 3: 
  1. Set up the ergo-machine and adapt it so I can keep my leg up and straight
  2. Adapt my training plan so I can work out at home
  3. Get some basic gym equipment like dumbbells 
  1. Week 4: on New Year´s Day (27 days after the accident) paddle on the water for the first time in weeks using a big and stable boat
  2. Week 5: go to the gym with my crutches and focus on my upper body muscles and my healthy leg
  3. Weeks 4 to 8: train in the local swimming pool with a canoe-polo kayak (a very small boat) so I can paddle on water whilst having a cast.
  4. Weeks 6 to 10: paddle on the water using a big and stable boat
  5. Week 10 onwards: train with my normal boat

We can get even deeper by splitting each short-term goal into the following categories: a) psychological; b) training; c) technical; d) lifestyle; e) relationships; and f) results.

The following examples are based on the first of my short-term goals I mentioned earlier:

Short-term: 

  1. Week 1: set up the ergo-machine and adapt it so I can keep my leg up and straight, adapt my training plan so I can work out at home, and get some basic gym equipment like dumbbells:
  1. Psychological: I know that this is going to be tough so I need to adapt my mindset to this new reality of having to train in very suboptimal conditions.
  2. Training: the weeks´ program is ready so I will try to do exactly the same number of sets and kilometres as it  prescribes.
  3. Technical: I need to get a mirror so I can check my technique and make the most of this setback to improve certain technical errors.
  4. Lifestyle: I am wheelchair bound so I will not be spending as many calories. Therefore, I need to keep a healthy diet and reduce my caloric intake.
  5. Relationships: this situation is hard not just for me but also for those around me, so I need to try to be as empathetic as possible.
  6. Results: I want to be successful on all fronts. However, if I do not succeed, I should not beat myself up. 

I hope these examples help you to understand the process of goal setting. 

In the story about my accident and my comeback I ended saying that life is not always a fairy tale with a linear progression and a happy ending. Nine months after that accident I won the B Final at the World Championships securing an Olympic spot for Spain for London 2012, however, the following year I was not able to retain that spot for myself and my friend Saúl Craviotto ended up winning a silver medal at those Olympic Games.

That said, I am convinced that a good goal setting system can help you get closer to your dreams.

———————————————————————————————

LET´S PRACTICE!

———————————————————————————————

Now, I would like you to reflect on what you wrote in your diary for the second question of the exercise about motivation, where I asked you to answer the following question:

What do I want to achieve?

Once you have reflected on your answer to that question, write down in your diary the goals you would like to achieve in the…

Long-term (six months to two years, or more)

What is my main goal?

Mid-term (twelve weeks to six months) 

What do I want to achieve in the next few months so I can get closer to my main goal? 

Short-term (from one to twelve weeks)

What do I want to achieve in a daily or weekly basis so I can be in track toward my main goal?

It is important to remember that:

a) you can always adjust the duration for each goal.

b) the goals should, at least potentially, be achievable. 

I wish you all the best for 2023!

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