Reject Resolutions and Set Real Goals Instead

I hate New Year’s resolutions for the same reason that many people do: no one ever keeps them. They’re empty promises that we make to ourselves in a moment of sudden (and possibly drunken) self reflection. They’re fits of flailing optimism unmitigated by any kind of real planning or clearly defined goal. They’re garbage.

If you think about it, every day is a chance to make a big decision, map out a plan or take a step toward becoming someone better than you already are. Waiting around for New Years is just an excuse to procrastinate and then, ultimately, you don’t end up getting shit done anyway so you finish out another year with lots of ideas and zero execution.

Still, there is definitely some value to this calendar-driven burst of motivation. If we can channel that energy and use it to define and map out plans for real goals instead of empty resolutions then so much the better.

Earlier this year, Fabian Cancellara said, “Athletes shouldn’t dream – they should set goals and fight for them.”

I like this both because Cancellara said it (and he may very well be God walking among men for all I can tell) and because of the word he uses: fight.

That word gets at something integral to the execution of goals. A well-constructed plan will only get you so far. One morning, you’re going to wake up and you’re not going to want to do the work. And when that happens, you have to remember this word: fight. You have to drag yourself to your work and do it. You have to dig deep.

And you know we’re not just talking about bikes, right? Right.

Step 1: Set SMART Goals

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed. Pay close attention to “measurable”.

You should know whether you’re making progress or not. This is not everybody-wins-softball – you should always know whether you’re winning or losing. Keep score.

Need more explanation about SMART goals? Go here.

Step 2: Tell People. A lot of people.

Accountability is key. Tell people and ask them to call you on it if you start to slip. Write everything down and put it up somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

Step 3: Make the time.

Part of fighting for your goal is making it a priority. Whenever I hear myself thinking, “I don’t have time for xyz.” I stop and remind myself that I’m actually just neglecting to make it a priority. Sometimes priorities are dictated to you: in 2009, my priority was (necessarily) working as much as humanly possible to keep my household running. This year I decided to take more control and made my priority to ride my bike, travel, and find better balance. In order to do that, I downsized, changed parts of my lifestyle and starting selling personal belongings.

Some days I literally had to grit my teeth and say, I WILL find balance this year. I WILL figure out how to have more peace and a better day-to-day quality of life. I turned down a lot of jobs and enjoyed the ones I took more than ever. At the end of the day, every decision was weighed against this priority of balance. I learned how to say no to people. There were trade-offs and compromises. But every day and every week, I made the time for things that felt centering and healthy and energizing.

Step 4: FIGHT

Fighting is different than making the time. Fighting is keeping your head in the game. It’s throwing punches even when you’re at your limit and fading fast. Fighting is about mental and emotional endurance. It’s about perseverance.

You’re going to wake up one day and feel lazy and uncommitted. You’re going to wake up and it’s going to feel easy to walk away and say, “I’ve done enough.”

Get up and do your fucking work. Get up and fight, goddamit.

And if you need more motivation around that, go buy the War of Art and shut your mouth.

My Point

Don’t make pansy-assed resolutions this year. Don’t type out a flimsy list in your blog and think that’s enough. Take this motivation you feel and sit down to really think about what you want and how you’re going to do it. Then make a SMART goal, shutup and start fighting for it.

You deserve it.

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  1. Amen, sister.

  2. I love resolutions, goals, whatever. However, I discovered one more very important rule to keep in mind:

    It has to be UNDER YOUR CONTROL.

    Setting a goal of “winning a race” becomes mentally destructive when you suddenly break your derailleur on the starting line.

  3. Thanks, I needed that.

  4. Thanks, thats just the stern talking to I needed.

  5. Heidi,

    I have been doing this for some time now.
    Whether it’s biking, running, swimming or yes indeed all three.
    Every year I go through the same goal setting procedure. Yeah jan 1st, not resolutions, but the date is just too convenient… New starts and all… Every year, well most years, I fail… Yeah yeah yeah I know all that SMART stuff, like I said I’ve been doing this some time, the magazines and websites are full of new year new starts, and the like.

    What I have to say though what I have just read here is maybe the most inspirational and motivational of them all, what you address, and I may even paste this to my own blog, with your permission, is FIGHT. Yup fight and balance.

    Thanks. I feel better about next year already.

  6. In addition to hallelujahs and high fives for an awesome year, I just want to say that your ferocious approach to good living is why you have been appointed my own personal power animal and fairy godmother to my unborn child. Keep on truckin’ Swifty!

  7. “This is not everybody-wins-softball.” Ha! Love it. I think
    it’s very important to not try to trick yourself into thinking
    you’re moving forward when in fact you’re moving backwards. I
    really enjoyed this post and Grit and Glimmer in general and I’m
    gonna share it with the world. Keep up the great work.

  8. Hello from a kindred spirit from the Frozen North. A friend
    just sent me a link here and I have managed to blow most of the
    morning reading your posts. Love it all: funny, interesting and
    inspiring. Looking forward to cruising the hippy isle at Safeway.
    Cheers sister.

  9. Come ON! New Years Eve I read your -23 post, and you
    motivated me to get out the door and run 7 miles, at 3pm, on New
    Years Eve. Now, sitting inside a nice warm sunny room you again
    motivate me to turn off the laptop, and get out the door for
    another run. Plus, the creepy doll on the floor was just activated
    by the tree shadows on the floor, and it laughed at me. New year,
    new races, new adventures. Can’t wait. Keeping writing, you’re

  10. I stopped making resolutions years ago when I realized that I did not always have the means (physical, financial, whatever) to fund them.

    Instead I began deciding that I would seek out new experiences, including hard experiences; and that my job was to remain open to whatever I leaned in the process. That’s how I got into racing and how I’ve stayed with it.

    This past year of racing inspired me to figure out something about how to actually “train” for next year. With few resources, I was pretty much limited to the cheapest gym membership I could find and no coach or trainer. My sweetie showed me how to use the equipment and an online program allowed me to set up a training plan with basic goals (in my case, getting stronger, reducing stress and increasing endurance).

    Three weeks into it I find that being open to things has been an excellent way to go, while allowing me to push myself each time.
    The online program lets me keep it methodical and check my progress. And so far I like what I am learning and doing.

    So no resolutions here — but lots of learning and an openness to possibilities with each visit to the gym.

  11. Hey Heidi, I swear I don’t know what I was reading before I found your page. Regarding resolutions, I have felt the same way you have for years. After reading your post I was inspired to write a little something on the subject. You’re an amazing writer and you make the internet a happier place.


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