The New Year seems to almost always be everyones chance to wipe the slate clean, hit the Reset button, dust off the dirt from the previous year and start again.
Sometimes it is just easier to close the door on a year and forget about all the stuff that didn’t go well: the training sessions missed, the races that weren’t executed, the nutritional woes, the lack of sleep, the stress, the stress, the stress.
I used to do exactly that: “Oh well, new year, new me! That was a crapy year so I’m simply going to close my eyes, click my heels, and only think about the New Year”.
And whilst dwelling on the past for too long is futile, you do need to take the time to reflect on the mistakes of the past; the lessons you needed to learn (yes, you needed to learn) so that you can properly set yourself up for the rest of your days – not just the next 365 of them.
I understand the sentiment of a new start – but why wait until 12:59:59 on the 31st of December? ANY day of the year is a chance to steer the ship back on course. And it is a lot easier, consistent and successful if you follow your own set of standards.
The biggest mistake people make at this time of year is setting their goals up, without any thought as to why they made the mistake they are trying to avoid. You have to sit down and deal with the rawness of that and look at those lessons without emotion, just understanding that you now know what NOT to do.
And really if you aren’t prepared to change your habits – the repeated patterns of mistakes from the previous year, then how can you expect changes to result in this year?
I have never ever set New year resolutions, ever. I think they are a waste of time and I would hazard a guess that only a very small percentage of people actually meet those goals each year – either because they were grossly unrealistic, too flimsy and easy to avoid, or they simply did not learn from the previous year.
What I do, and encourage everyone to do is write down a set of standards that you will hold yourself to for, not just 365 days, but for as long as it takes for you to adapt it into your everyday; making them an intuitive and automatic part of your life.
What you create with your standards is a guide to living that aligns with how you want to improve yourself as an athlete and person.
This means looking back a little bit and acknowledging the errors you have made (awareness) and then setting out the ways to fix them (action). When setting the standards, you can’t just write: “run faster” or “swim 1:xx / 100m”. Those are goals, and whilst they hold value, they are determined by the standards you set first.
Your standards should be a list – how long is up top you, but I recommend keeping them simple & concise – of thing that you dress every single day. Complicated standards lead to overwhelm, confusion and eventually they just get ignored (like resolutions).
Remember that your standards are for you – not your training partners, not your friends, not even your coach (although I think that your coach can add valuable input here). And as athletes there are certainly going to be some common standards to uphold (starting with the first one below).
Here are my Standards: (not just for 2015):
Take care of my body.
This is a global standard meaning that everything I do is with this in mind; nutrition is the priority. Sleep and mental rest are also hugely important to me (based on lessons from the past). This also includes for me, not over-training or over-reaching in sessions. It also means addressing my hip issues which I have ignored for far too long. Which segues nicely into my next Standard…
Listen to my body.
For me (and maybe for most people), this means letting go of the ego, and actually listening to what is going on with the body. Not ignoring the signs of over-reaching, not ignoring the need for sleep or rest. This standard is about reconnecting with aspects of my intuition that are easy to ignore when the carrot of a big goal or race is dangling ever so close. Intuition is a skill that can be developed but should not be taken for granted.
Stay in the present.
This one is simple for me: What am I doing right now, this minute, hour, day. It’s also extremely liberating and efficient because when I focus on right now, I am reminding myself exactly why a I am doing what I am doing. And if it doesn’t have a purpose (as in does’t align with a particular outcome I have set) then it has zero value and needs top halted immediately. This standard keeps me connected to what I am doing, with strong focus and understanding.
Learn and apply.
This is a standard I have carried for many years now, and one that I intend to uphold for many years to come. It’s one thing to sit down and absorb knowledge, but that knowledge is irrelevant without action. Learning is an essential aspect of any athlete’s and coach’s development but an abundance of knowledge has no value if you do not know how to apply it. So this standard is about canting to learn, understanding the knowledge and seeking ways to apply it to what I do in training, coaching and business.
Everything. Myself, my family, this sport, Trispecific, our athletes, our sponsors, random strangers…People that deserve respect and recognition. It’s far too easy to take things for granted in this must-have-now-or-else-world. Respect is almost a relic, but is essential.
Your own standards might be similar or they might completely different. I don’t care. What I do care about is that you spend the time to assess the year(s) that was (were) and pick out the areas that you know you need to work on. Simply wanting to get faster in racing is great goal, but it is underpinned and ultimately defined by the set of standards that you create and choose to adhere to.
That what each year is really about, you have a plan, you follow along, you listen and observe the responses from the body, you communicate with the necessary people and you learn. Learning means making mistakes and then acting accordingly. You can wipe the slate clean on any given day, but if you have a set of standards (that grow and change as life goes on) then you will always be holding yourself to something that is important to your development and longevity in the sport.