I am not a fan of silly New Year Resolutions, that rise like a rocket and fizzle out in a week, but…
…I am a proponent of self-reflection.
So let’s take some time on this New Year Day to look back on what we did well and what we did poorly.
How can we replicate the successes in other areas of our life? What can we do to circumvent the failures, to achieve a win, where there once was a loss?
As an American, male I have been conditioned to attack things head-on. But is that really the wisest approach? Perhaps, it depends.
The obstacle is the path. – Zen Proverb
I have been conditioned to think that obstacles were an impediment to my progress, but as I have grown older (and perhaps wiser), I have come to appreciate the obstacles as being a key element of my success. A Zen proverb says it well, “The Obstacle is the Path!”
Over the past few years, I have had a fair amount of success with achieving goals I have set for myself. I have also had some glaring failures. But, if I had not set these goals, written them down, and at times even shared them with you, none of them would have happened.
It is important to write them down, and to keep them visible, so you don’t wake up one day in November and realize that you dropped the ball back in February.
In the past, my goals have been somewhat Black and White, which can be discouraging in that life is not. For example, if I began the year with a deadlift of 240 pounds, and my goal was to hit 300 by the end of the year, I’d be disappointed to end on December 31st with a 295 pound deadlift. But the reality is that I would have improved by more than 20%. That is very positive improvement.
Over the past few months, I have been growing much more selective about who I let influence my thinking. One guy who has been a tremendous influence upon me is James Clear. I love his approach to developing habits. He takes the focus off the task itself, that is, off the performance, and places it upon the individual, as part of their identity.
If my previous “task-oriented” goal may have been to deadlift 300 pounds, my “identity-based goal” may have been to “see myself as a person committed to improving my physical strength, health and overall fitness”. In this scenario, my focus is on forward progress and self-improvement.
One might argue that I have removed the metrics for success, as the specific weight and timeframe have been removed. But with the identity-based model, I now find myself broadening my scope because food, rest, mobility and stress management are enveloped within this identity.
You could argue that it is simply a repackaging of “Fake it Until You Make it”, but it is much more than that. Yes, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, but let’s focus on the word “fulfilling”. That is, it isn’t simply a wish, it actually happens.
I recently wrote about my CrossFit Identity Crisis. As I have been evolving in my health and fitness requirements, I felt I was betraying myself. Ironically it wasn’t that I wasn’t progressing, I was simply changing direction. It was a mid-course correction, intended to keep me moving forward.
So how do I see my identity affecting my goal setting and my habits for the upcoming year?
To begin with, I am shedding the old image of being physically stiff and inflexible. My new identity is “agile, coordinated, flexible and well-balanced. I move well, without pain, and with full range of motion.” To assume that new identity I cannot simply jump into a phone booth and emerge in a superhero cape.
To move myself into the direction of my new self, I must introduce many small changes, which build the skills and the confidence to move well. I will perform drills to improve balance. I will set up a slackline in the back yard.
To develop hand-eye coordination, and proprioception, I will learn to juggle. I will perform convergence and divergence drills with my eyes. I will practice falling and rolling on the ground. I will perform Turkish Getups. I may introduce elements of yoga into my weekly routine.
You get the idea. Look at the Big Picture of who you want You to be a year from now. See yourself as that person, and move towards the reality by introducing the activities and behaviors to drive you towards that reality.
Note that I did not jettison my barbell work or Olympic Weightlifting goals. Those are still there and they are a large part of what I enjoy. But you can imagine those skills will improve measurably, as I improve balance, coordination and range of motion.
How about you? Who do you imagine yourself to be in twelve months? Pour yourself a cup of tea, turn off all distraction, and envision the you, you want to be. Now get on the path.
Have a great New Year!