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Tricks for Keeping Resolutions

1/2/2014

By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

New Years Resolutions are great opportunities to change. Bad habits, bad attitudes… Every New Year gives us an opportunity to reflect on those bad habits of ours and say, “This year I’ll be different.”

Flash-forward to three weeks later when we quit those resolutions and go right back towards our bad ways.

It’s a known fact that many people fail at New Years Resolutions -- including myself. But I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that have helped. And I’ve realized most people give up on Resolutions because the changes are too big, too widespread, and we don’t have ways to hold ourselves accountable. We want to change so much that we end up changing nothing.

So swimmers, if you’re making resolutions this year, here are a few tricks to keep to them… even if for just a few weeks longer…

1. To Set A Habit, Make Small Changes.
Making New Years Resolutions can be like going to a cafeteria when you’re starving: You’ll pick out things you won’t be able to finish. Instead of proposing huge changes to your daily habits, make small and achievable goals. For example, if you’re waking up at 8am and want to wake up at 5am, that’s not exactly realistic. Start small. Wake up at 7:55. Then 7:50. Take five minutes off each day until early mornings naturally become a daily habit. Or let’s say you want to eat healthier. Don’t give up junk food cold-turkey if eating junk food is part of your daily habit; instead, limit yourself to two junk food items a day. Then one. Then every other day. Make small, achievable changes to set a habit that sticks.

2. Make a Calendar.
Frustrated he wasn’t writing enough each day, a new up-and-coming comic named Jerry Seinfeld devised a system: He hung a calendar in his apartment. Each day that he worked on his stand-up routine, he crossed the day off with a huge red “X”. The goal was to create a chain of X’s, a link that wasn’t broken. “Don’t break the chain,” Seinfeld later said about the system. The point is to hold yourself accountable by being able to see what you’ve achieved. I’ve used this system for a few different habits I wanted to change: exercising, cleaning, writing… It works. You don’t want to break the chain, and you can see clearly the days you achieved your goals and the days you didn’t. Try making a calendar.

3. Do Your Least Favorite Activity In The Morning.
Let’s say your Resolution is to study more. You’re tired all the time, swim practice limits your time, and your grades are suffering. Instead of procrastinating studying until the night when you’re tired and exhausted from the day, try waking up 20 minutes earlier and studying. I know this is hard to do on mornings when you have swim practice, but those mornings you don’t, try studying then. No matter what it is, when you get your least favorite thing that you need to do out of the way, no matter what it is – studying, writing, meditating – you’ll immediately feel better about your day.

4. Always Ask Yourself, “Will This Activity Bring Me Closer or Farther From My Goals?”
Time is precious. Every day that passes is another day you can’t get back. Today there are more distractions than ever before – Instagram, computer games, etc.. When I was a teenager, I remember there was a season when I was swimming poorly. My coach asked me what was going on. “I’m doing too much,” I said. “I don’t have enough time to even sleep.” He asked me then what I wanted to accomplish – the #1 thing in high school that I wanted to accomplish, I told him. Then he said, “Every time you do an activity, you need to ask yourself: ‘Will this bring me closer or farther away from my goal?’” Ever since then, I’ve approached activities differently. It’s so easy to become over-committed. It’s important to sometimes be a little greedy with our own time and make sure that what we’re doing will help us achieve what we want to achieve. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

5. Tell Someone Your Resolution.
Peer pressure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When you tell someone a goal of yours, they can hold you accountable. Tell someone you trust. Someone who won’t make fun of you. Someone who will help you when you’re feeling tired or when you’re in a bad mood. It helps to have someone hold you accountable for a goal – a teammate, a coach, a parent, or a friend. Then, in three weeks when you feel like quitting, you’ll have someone else there pushing you along.


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