and hopefully you'll be thinking about your goals and targets for the new year.
First, it all starts with Christmas
Christmas for many is a time for celebration and reflection on the year gone by, as well as the year ahead. First, what a year 2021 has been. No one could have forecast that COVID-19 would have impacted 2021 like it has.
It's time to enjoy, sit back, relax, all whilst being mindful
You undoubtedly need to relax, especially given that for the best part of 4 months at the start of 2021, we were all told to not be a human being i.e., to socialise!
Why though do your 2022 goals start with Christmas in 2021? Well, if you've been working hard on your health, fitness, career, tan (!) ... no matter what it is, for some or all of 2021, 7 - 10 days' worth of binge eating and generally being lethargic can go a LONG way to undoing a lot of your progress.
Before we go on, we're not scrooges. If someone said we couldn't have a mince pie at Christmas, they would get told where to go!! All we're suggesting is that you simply need to remain mindful of your actions. One mince pie instead of an entire tray.
"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions"
Simply be aware of your intake over Christmas
To use the great James Clear's guidance, all habits and behaviours that compliment your health need to be obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. Naturally, if you want to avoid certain habits, then you need to invert these. Make them invisible, ugly, very difficult and unsatisfying.
For example, if you know you're going to have tray's of mince pies or tin's of chocolates and we want to be mindful of our consumption, we would:
Make it invisible - place the chocolates out of sight, at the back of a cupboard (you'll be amazed at how much less chocolate you consume with just this small barrier!)
Make it ugly - Place something in sight that reminds you, every chocolate you eat is a vote toward the type of person you don't want to be
Make it difficult - as above, place the chocolates out of sight or better still, don't have them in the house at all!
Make it unsatisfying - you could place pictures of things/people you aspire too, reminding you that again, overindulging in chocolates is not going to contribute toward you reaching those aspirations.
One of the best behaviour's you can do with calorie dense treats is to pre portion them i.e., if you know you're sitting down to watch a film, don't take the tin/packet/whole bag etc in with you. Simply portion what you "need" into a bowl/dish, and then place the remainder back in the cupboard/fridge, out of sight.
Another simple method is to keep a food journal with you, always, and note down exactly what it is you eat, when, what, how etc. Being aware of your consumption will make a huge difference! And if you "don't have time", remember, “I don’t have time” means “it's not a priority for me” (shoulders shrugged!)
"What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself"
Leading into 2022
How does being mindful over Christmas help our goals in 2022?
You're maintaining habits that will serve you in good stead,
You're maintaining your health and fitness you've worked so hard for,
You're making it easier (remember, behaviour change should be easy at first!) for yourself by not swimming upstream!!
We've all heard so many times,
"I'll start in January... "My new year's resolution is ..."
... all of which last for about 4 weeks whilst motivation levels are high, and then when we slowly realise that we haven't yet reached our goals, motivation dwindles, and low and behold, we're back to simply "existing" as per before.
Time to be SMART
You will have heard it many times before; You need to be SMART:
Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic).
Time bound (time limited, time/cost limited).
We would also add "ER" to that list:
Easier (focus on one key goal or "WIN" at a time)
Responsibility (your actions determine your outcomes. Don't play the blame game)
I will be smarter in 2022
Say we have an individual whose goal is to run a marathon in 2022. Let's break this down:
Specific - "What do I want to achieve? I want to run a marathon, and being sensible, this will need to be some time in the future as I can run 10km well, but I've never ran over that kind of distance before."
Measurable - "How am I going to achieve and monitor my progress? I am going to utilise the advice of a running coach/specialist, devising a sensible training programme that we will monitor to ensure I am on track and progressing nicely toward my goal."
Achievable - "What can I do to make sure I am not setting my bar too high? Ensure that I prioritise my time for my training, as well as get enough rest. Planning my diary in advance, knowing where I may struggle to achieve the training volume I need i.e., on holidays, will help. I'll also make sure I keep a log of my sleep and nutrition intake."
Relevant - "I ran many 10km's last year, and I feel that with good practice and guidance, I can easily achieve my target of running a marathon in under 5 hours."
Time bound - "The London Marathon is in October, and with 10 months of preparation, I can be sensible and reasonable with my approach to training, so not to ensure I overdo it and end up hurting myself."
Easier - "I love many sports, and I'd love to try a triathlon. What's important now (WIN) though is my running. It is my passion, and I'm going to ensure I concentrate on actions that contribute towards me achieving the marathon! I will learn to say "no" to someone else to say "yes" to myself."
Responsibility - "I cannot blame others when things go wrong. So long as I maintain a sensible approach and realise Rome wasn't built in a day, I'll be fine. Things will go wrong. That's life. I have plenty of time until October, and to make sure I'm on track, monitoring my training and recovery will be vital."
So, using the above, you can see there is a specific goal, that will be measured/monitored throughout. It is achievable, as the individual run's already, AND there are 10 months to prepare which also means they can be sensible in their approach. The goal is relevant as the passion is running. Focusing predominantly on running will make life easier and any issues, no matter whose fault, are the individual's responsibility to ensure it doesn't reoccur i.e., through overtraining.
We can see how simple this kind of planning is, and yet so many of us struggle to reach our aspirations.
"WIN" the day
One of the main reasons we often fall short of not just achieving our goals but even getting near them is we focus on too many at once.
"The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities"
We would argue that scheduling your prioriTY is the key here. Dividing your attention on too many tasks i.e. running AND swimming, cycling, football, will dilute your focus, and you'll make minimal progress, dwindling your natural motivation, all leading to you giving up those goals for another day.
Again, to “make it easy”, don't run before you can walk! For example, our runner already runs 10km distances plus, and is experienced, and given the time frame, this is a realistic goal that with gradual progression can be achieved. Setting a target of running a marathon for someone new to running is likely to be too much, and we would therefore focus on running just 1 mile, then 2, then gradually up to 5, perhaps then a half marathon.
Short term pain. Long term gain. Trust the process, and embrace the journey.
Using the SMARTER principle will help fight our natural tendencies toward expecting short term gain. We're hardwired to focus on the short term and immediacy, especially now more than ever in our modern world. Unfortunately, nothing that is worth doing or that will compliment your health and fitness is ever achieved overnight. We simply focus too much on the outcome. The goal. We must ensure we focus on the inputs i.e., the process, the journey. Enjoying the process along the way will provide far more satisfaction than any goal ever attained.
Take for example an Olympian. They'll train for 4 years to achieve a goal. They wouldn't walk into a gym, perform one training session and expect to be the next Chris Hoy, so why would you?
Saying the above, make sure you do relax, unwind and enjoy the Christmas period. Through consistently following the above simple principles, you won't go far wrong, and just being a tad mindful of your indulgence is all you need to do to ensure you're best placed to start 2022 on the front foot.