“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” - Cavett Robert
Yes, it’s that time of year again, it’s resolution season! You probably have a number of things that are on your list of New Year's Resolutions, like lose weight, eat healthier, get in shape, or spend more time with friends and family. For athletes, New Year's goals can include putting in the off season work to prepare for the upcoming season, or to gear up for the rest of the season. Being an Olympic year, there are many athletes getting ready to qualify for the Olympics, compete, and represent their countries this summer.
Whether you are an elite athlete or someone who is trying to get in shape, a New Year's Resolution is your opportunity to start fresh and set a new standard for yourself. Start by taking time to list all those things you want to accomplish this year, you can even add things from last year's resolution list.
Next, think about and plan your process to attain those goals. This is the time to create the road map to acquire or attain a skill in the following areas: a specific skill relevant to your sport like catching and throwing (technical); game strategy (tactical); strength, speed, and agility development (physical); or emotional control (mental). There are many reasons, distractions, and excuses to keep you from sticking with your goals and grinding it out, so your roadmap is your plan of action. Planning allows you to eliminate as many unnecessary obstacles as you can.
By doing this, your roadmap will keep you focused on what's relevant, controllable, and important for you to succeed. Think about it, if you are planning a road trip, is it better to just get in the car and figure things out as you go? Aimlessly driving in one direction with no idea of where to go or what you are going to do. Or, is it better to plan it out? Like, knowing where you want to go, having an idea of what you want to do, packing the right things for your trip, and programming the destination on your smartphone or gps so that you know the fastest way to get there. This process starts by creating your long term goal(s), then creating the steps (milestone goals) to get there.
Whether you are a first timer, someone trying something new for the first time, or seasoned athlete, someone who has played their sport for a long time, both need a coach(es) to help develop and improve. For starters, a coach can help you learn how to plan out your training in a more efficient manner. Secondly, a coach is someone who supports and believes in you. The biggest difference between a first timer and elite athlete is that elite athlete seeks out coaches and others to help and support them. It's their entourage of people that help to make them great. On the other hand, first timers will try to do it on their own, which more than likely leads to failure or loss of interest. Find the right coach, one who supports you, encourages you, trains you, and challenges you to accomplish your goals.
It's important to seek out people who can become part of your entourage or group of support. This includes, coaches, trainers, people to train with, friends, and family. Asking for help and support is not a sign of weakness. It takes as much courage to commit to a new plan of action as it is to ask for help. So take the first step by doing both! Why? Both help you to build your confidence and keep you motivated. While it may seem uncomfortable, it's better to feel uncomfortable and to challenge yourself than it is to feel like it's unbearable and impossible!
Once you create the process, it will be easier to add deadlines for your resolutions /goals. While it may seem as though a deadline means you have to be proficient at something by that time, it's better to thing of it as a time to evaluate your progress. A deadline is better served as a time to reflect on the progress made and to evaluate what is going well, what challenges you faced, to make adjustments, and to set your next deadline.
A first time runner starts off by walking and running for the first month. His goal, during that time, is to build up enough strength and endurance to progress from running a certain distance or amount of time and needing to recover for a bit by walking, to being able to run without walking for a set distance or time.
For a seasoned lacrosse player, her goal is to improve off hand stick skills and footwork for the next three months. The progression during this time includes, going from form catching and throwing, to working on her footwork, to catch and throw on the run, and then incorporating dodges and shooting on the run.
So remember, setting a deadline means that you are committing to your goal / resolution. When a deadline arrives, you can determine whether your goal(s) were too much to accomplish and needs to be broken down into smaller chunks; too easy because you are able to meet that goal a lot sooner, thus needing to add more steps for the next deadline; or it was just right, meaning the timeframe was just right to accomplish your goal, and now you are ready to work on the next level of difficulty for that skill and for improving your game.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out WHY.”
- Mark Twain
To make your New Year's Resolutions really stick, you have to define your “Why”.
Here are four examples of how athletes channel their inner “WHY”:
1. The challenge to be the best at what they do. The desire to be the best on a team or position on a team, or to be the best individual or team in the conference, state, nationally, world class, the Olympics, or as a professional athlete. The challenge to be the best is the inspiration. It reminds me of Steve Prefontaine, US distance runner. He was said to be too small, too slow, and had an aggressive strategy to racing (to go out and run as hard as he could the whole race). It's for these reasons that he set his personal standard to just run as hard as he could. His goal was to out WILL his competitors, “Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.” Not only did he silence the skeptics, he became a legend in the world of distance running.
2. The desire to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before. This type of inspiration can be a player scoring their first goal in a game, a team winning their first conference championship, or a first time runner's goal to complete a marathon. LeBron James made it his mission to win the first NBA title for the city of Cleveland. As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers he accomplished that goal in 2016. While it seemed impossible, he was able to rally the owners of the franchise, his teammates, the city of Cleveland, and Cavs fans around this goal, and even coined the phrases "Witness" or be a witness, and "Believeland" or believe in Cleveland.
3. Silencing the skeptics by proving them wrong. It’s the classic underdog story. In sports, everyone loves the story of the underdog, the cinderella story. It reminds me of Misty Copeland, Prima Ballerina. At the age of 13 she was told she was too old, she was later told she didn’t have the right body type to be a ballerina, and to top it off, she had to fight through racial barriers as well. In the end, her hard work and her passion for ballet paid off. She was promoted to the highest status in ballet, the Prima Ballerina. She was also the first African-American to become a Prima Ballerina.
4. Inspired by things bigger than themselves. Athletes can find inspiration by supporting things bigger than themselves. This can include social activism, like the United States Women’s National Team’s support for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. Athletes can also find inspiration by honoring people for heartfelt reasons like parents who sacrificed to provide for their family, a close friend who battled a serious illness, or a family member who may have passed away at a young age.
In the end, defining your “Why” gives your resolution / goals meaning and inspiration. It’s why the athletes mentioned are dedicated, hardworking, and invest their time and energy to be the best versions of themselves. Striving to be your best self involves a love of competition, a desire to improve, and dedication to work hard. As you make your list of New Year's Resolutions, remember to create your plans, set your deadlines, and to find your inspiration by defining your WHY!.
Tips for reinforcing your WHY:
a. If your WHY is inspirational, it will help you to overcome adversity, challenges, and setbacks. When your WHY has meaning, you have a bigger purpose. As a result, it helps you to recognize that setbacks are part of the process, so your WHY is your reminder to persevere.
b. If your WHY is personal to you, like I love playing my sport and seeing how my hard work pays off, rather than I play because my parents invested a lot of time and money for me to play; chances are, you will be more invested and excited to play, compete, and put in your best effort.
c. Post your WHY everywhere, be it on your bathroom mirror, on your phone's lock screen, on your smart watch, on your goal setting sheet, and in your journal. When you can see it, it's your literal reminder of why you love doing what you do!
d. Share your WHY with your group of support. Share it with your teammates and others as well. For starters, they can help support you, motivate you, and provide insight. Secondly, your inspiration can be infectious and get others to follow your lead!
e. Find the joy in what you are doing. If it's fun and a source of personal pride, you will be willing to invest your time and energy to train, compete, and improve. If it's not fun, you will come to resent what you are doing because you are missing out on the other things that are more fun.