It might just be the most emotionally dangerous day of the year. Warning…it will be here soon.
New Years Day.
The danger has nothing to do with how late you were up the night before or what you did. The danger is subtle and deceiving. In fact, New Year’s Day itself might actually feel the opposite. It probably feels emotionally energizing. It’s a day filled with the promise of transformation. This year it WILL be different we promise ourselves.
But, for 90 percent of us it’s not different. Weeks later we encounter an explosion of discouragement as our goals for the new year lie around us in scattered ruin. And, with it your hope for a new beginning and a new you.
Has that ever happened to you? Research indicates that for every ten people who set goals, nine will fail. In other words, 90% of us will feel the discouragement, and perhaps even shame, of failed goals yet again.
My list of New Year failures probably numbers into the hundreds. No exaggeration. I would routinely set about a dozen goals every new year. I did that for decades. They were all fueled by emotion. It all felt great on January 1, but not so great on February 1.
Thankfully, that scenario is no longer my reality. My goals are now driven by intentionality. I wrote a six part series on that process that you can read here. But, even with Intentional Goals there is still a potential danger for discouragement.
Many years ago I worked a split shift. I did news on the radio during morning and afternoon drive. In between was my time. Since this was before we had kids and my wife was at work, I would often go to a nearby state park and hike. I particularly liked a trail beside a quiet stream. One day I was taking a break and watched the water gently flow by. It was mesmerizing.
And, then I saw something.
I don’t mean I saw it. I mean I SAW it. That’s when you see something not just with your eyes, but also with your heart. It’s when you finally understand a thing.
The stream was filled with stones. Some of them were large, but most were either medium or small in size. But, all of them were smooth and rounded. And, all of them had been made that way by the stream. The quiet, gentle stream.
At that moment I saw in a way I had never understood before the power of relentless consistency. Those stones weren’t made smooth by a Category Five Hurricane with all its force and strength. They were transformed by quiet running water that never stopped. That stream didn’t have a short term goal with those stones, but instead that stream was playing the long game.
I’ve never forgotten that moment and it has had a significant impact on my goals today. I’m still vulnerable to the lure of emotions when it comes to things I want to change. My natural inclination is to make it happen NOW. I want the Category Five Hurricane of Change.
But, that rarely works. Lasting change happens over a long period of time. I need that gentle stream that never stops.
New Year’s Day is approaching quickly. If you are considering a goal for 2019 that involves getting more steps I applaud that. In fact, I strongly encourage you to make that a part of your daily life. I believe passionately that all of us should be moving more and sitting less. I believe strongly that the simple act of walking can be transformative. Having that daily step goal is a powerful thing.
But, at the same time I have this caution. Don’t set that goal too high. Start small.
No, even smaller.
I suggest starting just a notch higher than what you regularly are getting right now. If most days you’re in the neighborhood of 4,500 steps (this is what the average American gets) then I wouldn’t go any higher than 5,000. Resist the temptation to dive in the deep end because you think you are ready to make a big change. Please resist! You’ll have days where even that small goal feels HUGE.
The real goal here is to string together a chain of success. Play the long game. You want to be adding to that chain of success not only on February 1, but October 1.
We’ve had some strong hurricanes recently. They did terrible damage, but each one blew out. And, not a single stone had its rough edges rounded by any of those hurricanes. Meanwhile that little stream is still smoothing rocks day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
New Year’s Day is coming. Be the stream in 2019.
If you would like to receive this blog click the FOLLOW link (below if you’re reading on your phone or above if on a computer) and you’ll be sent a link the moment each blog is posted. In coming weeks we’ll be looking at whether you should take a break from your step goals during the holidays, the three step goals you should set in 2019, and THE PLAN to help you win at fitness even if you have a long history of failure.
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[…] Start small. Set a small goal that only pushes you a couple days a week. The tendency is to set an exercise goal that’s way too big because we want the transformation right now. Exercise goals that are too big almost always fall into that 92% failure group. Instead, set a smaller, more sustainable goal to start. […]