How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

As 2019 ends, I’m near to completing my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve never actually been successful in that. How many of us have? Resolutions tend to be aspirational, and I have made many failed resolutions over the years.

I recently read Ben Bergeron’s book Chasing Excellence: A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes. First-of-all, let me tell you this book isn’t just for, or about, athletes. Yes, Bergeron is a top-tier coach with such clients as Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir, two CrossFit Games’ champions. He also owns CompTrain, a training company that your local box has probably borrowed metcons from. I loved his book, but even as he says, it’s not because he shared anything most of us haven’t heard before.

What he did was organize it, explain it, give terrific examples, and made me really comprehend the parts. As I read and mulled over his information, I realize that he was right, that I DID know these things, and at times I have intuitively put them into practice. In fact, I put one of his suggestions into practice last year when I chose my New Year’s Resolution. It was the key.

Last year I decided I would accrue 200 work out sessions at my local CrossFit box. As of December 1st, I have 15 sessions left. It should be easy to pass the 200 mark. Why did this particular year’s fitness goal come true? Was it a SMART goal? Hell no, I hate those…great in theory, too complicated in practice. It was a process goal.

A free PDF calendar I printed and kept in my kitchen.

Process-focused: I didn’t resolve to achieve a result, like, say, perform 10 pull ups or get my first double-under. Those are outcomes I can’t actually control. I resolved to work on my process, dedicating myself to the task, not the outcome. Then success is a matter of maximizing the details that I can control. Results may or may not follow. This is the key thing, the one that Bergeron talks about a lot. He prepares his athletes to perform their best at the Games not through imagining competitions, not through analyzing competitors, and not through aiming for specific achievements but by dedication to their own training each day. When the Games come around, his athletes are focused, as always, on their work, on doing the things they have already been doing all year.

Gamified: I don’t care how sophisticated you are, you’re still human and competitive, so turning anything into a game is addictive. Besides the game that CrossFit does (the box whiteboard), the “game” I made was simply tracking on a sheet printed with the months that I hung in my kitchen. I got to cross off every day I was at the box. It’s simple, but satisfying. As the months wore on, looking at my sheet was a source of pride. It had plenty of pencil marks, was wrinkled, and each mark reflected hard work. 

Accountable: No one was depending on me to show up. I was just another member among dozens. I also left some flexibility that could have become disastrous; that is, if I needed to get 200 overall, maybe I could take a few weeks off this month and make it up next month, right? I found three things that kept me accountable.

  • First, sharing my success on my Instagram account. Each month I posted the month’s results.
  • Second, taking care with social dynamics. For example, do you feel it’s important that your box mates know who you voted for? If it is important enough that you’re willing to risk awkwardness and avoidance, then go for it. But maybe you can share that with people you get to know a little better outside the box.¬†As a member of the LGBTQ community I find I can feel betrayed to discover someone I respected thinks I’m some sort of evil. I’d rather just not know.
  • Third, thinking about the money. CrossFit is pricey compared to going to a globogym, and there are excellent reasons why it should be. I’m happy to pay for the privilege and don’t begrudge the owners and coaches anything. However, I also realize the more I went, the less I paid per session. In other words, I got much more for my money when I attended 15+ sessions in a month versus the 4-8 that many trainers expect.

My resolution for 2020 will be about something entirely different from fitness. It will be about my art. But the things I learned this year have helped me to plan better. I expect I won’t have just aspirations in 2020.

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