Just a typical NYE post….?
My Facebook feed is flooding with possibilities. Picture collages, blog posts, status updates, tweets; everyone looking to tie up the loose ends of 2013 and looking ahead to 2014. With every click to scroll down, I find a different person taking advantage of this opportunity for reflection. It seems only fitting in the spirit of the New Year that I take the opportunity to do a little reflecting of my own.
Most posts I’m seeing consist of optimistic excitement at for the new year, as well as many folks posting the obligatory resolution. There’s something about the idea of a “resolution” though that is unsettling for me. I think it must be the tone of finality about the word. I suppose that’s why when I read this article by James Clear, it really struck a chord with me. (Sorry for the music pun; music teacher!) One might say it certainly “Clear”ed things up. (Ok, that wasn’t a music pun. Couldn’t help it.)
For those who may not choose to click on the link, let me summarize by quoting the three main points:
1. Goals reduce your current happiness.
The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”
SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.
As an amateur runner, this rings beyond true for me, especially this past year. There were many times this year I had to “convince” myself about running. I felt like there was something wrong with me. “I don’t remember it being this difficult to get up and get running when I first started a few years ago- isn’t it supposed to get easier?” “Is it ever going to be ‘fun’ again?”
It only got worse as I started reading blog posts about other runners and starting to compare myself with others. I can still feel my back muscles start tensing and feel my teeth start grinding when I start thinking about my long term running goals. I’m overwhelmed. Every runner knows that the most difficult part is putting on the workout clothes and taking the first steps, and the idea of running for extended periods of time after getting the shoes on only makes me want to just stay on my couch and cuddle with the pets.
But I found when I take it one run at a time, commit to getting in a certain number of miles a week, and concentrate on getting back to why I enjoy running to begin with (feeling healthy, sense of accomplishment after each run & not just races, etc.), my ultimate goals are not quite as terrifying. (I’m looking at you, WDW Marathon in 2018. But not for too long, or I’ll need to visit a chiropractor.)
2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress.
Consider someone training for a half-marathon. Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish the race, they stop training. Their goal was to finish the half-marathon and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?
SOLUTION: Release the need for immediate results.
Seriously, get out of my head. My first half marathon was UNREAL. I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment. And although I’ve done 3 more since then, they just haven’t measured up to the personal sense of fulfillment as that first. If I had stuck to enjoying the training/work-out process and taken pleasure in the small accomplishments, I might have felt something greater, been able to sustain longer, and enjoyed more long term results. Maybe that’s why C25K (2011’s NY Resolution) worked so well.
I don’t usually mix “business with pleasure”, but since a big part of my 2013 was also becoming a high school band director, my business truly has become my pleasure. This second point really hit home for me on behalf of my students as well. So many students expect that if you’ve done it once, it’ll just automagically “stick”. We are constantly reminded that in developing skills (whether it be making music, playing a sport, or studying for a test), it isn’t just “one and done”. Putting in the time is ultimate purpose, not just “getting it right”. Sometimes, getting it wrong and going on the search is more meaningful anyway.
3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.
You can’t predict the future. (I know, shocking.)
But every time we set a goal, we try to do it. We try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.
SOLUTION: Build feedback loops.
Forget about predicting the future and build a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments.
We live in a world of immediacy, where we can find out anything we want with the few taps on a smart phone. More importantly though is what we do with the knowledge or experience we have gained after we gain it. Why is it so important to put in the time, whether it be practicing scales or putting in the miles? So you will have what you need to create something special and be transformed. If only I had been a little more quick on the uptake on this one, I might have been a little more understanding toward myself and my running regimen this past year. But, a new year seems as good a time as any to get started.
Looking back on 2013, I had a great year. Lots of “magical travel” to Disney, got the job of a lifetime, and learned more about myself than ever before. But there was a twinge of something else, and Mr. Clear seems to have hit the proverbial target for me. I don’t want to get sucked in to “chasing sexy goals”; I want in for the long haul. I want to grow my potential, find my strength, and be the best person I can be for myself and everyone around me. The things I want can’t be accomplished in just a year.
Looking ahead to 2014, my “resolution” is not so much resolution, but more resolve. I am most anticipating the opportunity to “Keep moving forward.” (Thanks, Papa Walt.)