As the year wraps up, one of the questions top on a runner’s mind is how to go about setting the right new year’s resolution for 2017. For many, a new calendar year represents new beginnings and self improvement. Right now is the ideal time of year for reflecting on self and identifying areas of weakness– January is cold and bleak and presents minimal distractions. While new year’s resolutions and aspiring to become your best self are admirable goals to chase, it’s important to be realistic in setting the 2017 focus.
Kim Dawson is a professor in sports psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University and a mental skills consultant based out of Waterloo, Ont. She gave us some tips on how to take the smart approach with setting the 2017 new year’s resolution. Here’s some of her wisdom:
Think small steps, not the outcome.
You don’t pick a destination without giving thought as to how you’re going to get there. Similarly, don’t just choose a goal for the new year without considering the steps you need to achieve it– and whether or not those steps are doable. “What I don’t like is purely outcome-based goals,” says Dawson. “You have to build bottom up rather than top down.” For example, if a runner just took to the sport in November, chances are winter marathon training is a bit of a long shot…
Cut the emotions out.
Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement when setting your new year’s resolution. Reflect on 2016 and use your logic to decide if your new goal reflects your behaviour. As Dawson explains, letting feelings overtake only increases the likelihood of the resolution not working out. “Emotionally driven objectives have a high probability of failing. They are not based in reality,” she says. “Behaviour-driven objectives have a higher probability of being successful.”
Apply running-related lessons to something new.
This might sound crazy, but consider making a non-running related resolution this year. As Dawson suggests, ask yourself: “What skills have I developed with running that are transferable to something else?” or “What else have I learned through running that I can apply to, say, family or work?” Running teaches some powerful lessons and many personality traits develop because of that– so apply these grains of knowledge outside of the sport. “If you’re fearless in your running, be fearless in your life,” says Dawson.
Check in with a friend.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to be self-aware and identify what we’re capable of. Don’t be afraid to ask friends,” says Dawson. Another option is to come up with a goal to work on together. What can you and your spouse or training partners do collectively?
Evaluate on a month-by-month basis.
A common problem with the new year’s resolution is that it becomes stale and then forgotten often before the winter is even through. To avoid this, check in regularly or establish mini monthly goals to keep the motivation from dwindling. For example, Dawson says, consider that goal race and the months leading up to it. “If I want to run a fall or spring marathon, where do I have to be in January, February and March?” she says.
Delay the resolutions for a month.
Don’t knock this one. Why not start the self improvement one month into the year? Dawson actually advises this. Why? December and the holidays are a time of upheaval. She suggests getting back to basic routine before evaluating what needs to change going forward. “Something set for Jan. 1 is based on December behaviour, which is A-typical. I prefer February resolutions. Get back into your life and find your regularity and habits,” says Dawson.