City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Setting the New Year in Motion

New Year's Goal Setting

As the days grow short and the holidays approach, it is the perfect opportunity for reflecting upon the past year. A time for taking inventory of accomplishments and aspirations yet to be fulfilled. For many of us, it is when we lay the groundwork for goals to be met in the New Year. Taking a healthy approach to our goals is just as important as setting them in the first place.

Over the decades, I have made a practice of using this time, when daylight is at a premium and the year ahead is a blank slate, to make goals and set in motion the processes that ensure I achieve as much of what I set out to do as possible. I have heard it said that we grossly overestimate what we can do in a year and tremendously underestimate what we can accomplish in five or ten years.

Healthy goal setting starts with being realistic and unabashedly honest about what we can take on. Numerous studies put the percentage of Americans who fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. Most of those studies also indicate that the largest common factor of those who fail to keep their goals is cultivating unrealistic expectations. So, how does one avoid becoming a part of those statistics? Most importantly, regardless of the type of goal (fitness, career path, etc.) make sure you are setting a realistic goal.

The following example is full of unrealistic expectations and the opposite of healthy goal setting. In the early 2000s, like a lot of folks, I was riding the wave of inspiration created by America’s dominance at the Tour de France. While I had raced a few short mountain bike events, I knew I needed to go bigger. Buzzing from watching those crazy mountain stages of the Tour, I abandoned common sense and entered the Beaver Creek 100. I knew nothing about racing a mountain bike for 100 miles. I had never ridden more than 35 miles and when I had done that (in Moab, Porcupine Rim as a loop from camp… on a hardtail…in July… without food) I thought I was going to die. I needed a bike for this race, so I bought a trail bike that was well north of 30 pounds, and I spent most of the race with the rear shock locked out as it was so inefficient. I didn’t follow a structured training plan in the lead-up to this suffering and I never rode further than 40 miles in “training”. I was ignorant, delusional; I was convinced I was strong enough in body and mind to finish.

At the starting line, I took my place, the place I was certain I deserved, in the front row. As I would learn later, the first few rows are where the pros line up. It was another act of arrogance and ignorance, a theme that continued throughout the race. I had no knowledge of pacing and when the gun went off, I launched an attack up a steep hill, I blew up, gasping for air as those who knew what they were doing streamed past. I managed to survive for 70 painful miles. I begged a ride back to the finish line from a family who was there cheering on an athlete. I was embarrassed, humbled, yet miraculously undaunted. However, I knew if I was going to ever do this again, I needed a plan.

I have since turned that disappointment into a lesson that has helped me set and successfully carry out many goals over the years. While it may, on the face of it, seem over simplistic I have found the following tenants of tremendous benefit when setting healthy goals:

-Be Specific (running an eight-minute mile, taking the stairs at work, adopting a shelter pet)

-Make it measurable (use a calendar, journal, or some other method to mark your progress)

-Choose a goal that is attainable/realistic (if you want to run an eight-minute mile you should probably already be running a little, do you have the qualifications for that new job you want?)

-Make the goal time sensitive (give yourself a deadline to accomplish specific steps as well as the goal itself)

Healthy goal setting starts with being realistic and unabashedly honest about what we can take on.