In Living Commentary

New Year's tips from former U.S. Olympic speedskater and current Milwaukeean, Katherine Adamek.

Bringing purpose to your New Year's goal

Every New Year's resolution starts strong with the resolve to build and create a better version of ourselves. We have good intentions, but struggle to maintain motivation toward long lasting change. Fix your mindset in 2019 and make this the resolution that lasts!

Why resolutions don't work

New Year's resolutions are meant to inspire by providing motivation to change. Not just fleeting change, but a meaningful, long-lasting change that will fill our lives with meaning and purpose. We set a goal with the illusion that when we achieve it we will be happy.

On good days we feel motivated to try new things and make good choices. We use that momentum to tell ourselves, "Good Job! I'm awesome!" Then the inevitable happens … we have a bad day and suddenly our self-talk takes a turn for the worse. The stress, fear and frustration of falling short of our goal leads us to think, "I suck. I can't do this. I'm going out for pizza and beer … I'm a loser."

However, this thought is not a reality. This thought is an opportunity to fix your mindset! To change your thinking so that you can overcome negative thoughts, emotions, and limiting beliefs. Prioritize your self and your health this new year to passionately pursue your best version of you. First …

Identify your goal

When is the last time you achieved long-lasting self-fulfillment from achieving a goal? Chances are you enjoyed a sense of pride as all the pieces came together, but shortly after you were left feeling empty and needed to set your sights on a new goal in order to achieve happiness. This type of goal setting is called "A to B" thinking. Instead, plan your goal-setting process around the concept of "Expanding A."

Expanding A means looking at where you're at now and changing the focus to improving your process instead of achieving the goal. This sounds counter-intuitive, but a great process almost always leads to a great outcome. Even if the outcome doesn't end up being what you had hoped for, you can cultivate a sense of pride and meaning through a great process.

Aren't feelings of pride, meaning, and purpose the goals we're really chasing anyway? Is it really the thing we desire that will make us happier? Or is it a sense of pride and meaning in our work that allows us to make a positive impact on others? In order to cultivate this, you must start by …

Asking why

Once you know what your performance goal is this year, practice the five whys. As you do this the purpose behind your goals will start to take on a deeper meaning that will provide long lasting motivation for change.

  1. Why is your resolution important to you?
  2. Why is the answer to that question important to you?
  3. Why is the answer to that question important to you?
  4. Keep asking "why?"
  5. Keep asking "why?"

For example, my New Year's resolution is to use less plastic. That's important to me because … Excessive plastic consumption hurts the environment. An unhealthy environment leads to global warming. Global warming makes our planet an unsafe place to live. An unsafe planet will cause millions of species (including humans) to suffer. This suffering could impact future generations of my family. (Read more: The Effects of Global Warming by National Geographic)

Now my original goal of using less plastic has transformed into prevent suffering of future generations of my family by taking action against excessive plastic consumption. Sounds easy enough, but making long-lasting change is hard. In order to succeed you'll need to …

Create a strategy for how

Bringing purpose to your resolution is a powerful motivator for lasting change, but can feel overwhelming if you try to change too much at once. Avoid getting overwhelmed and the temptation to quit by creating three challenging, but achievable strategies for how. For example, I can reduce my use of plastic by ordering drinks without a straw, carrying a refillable water bottle, and using cloth bags when shopping.

Creating a strategy for how isn't always easy, but it doesn't matter how you start. It matters how you finish! Ask a friend for help or imagine the situation as if it was happening to someone else. Take a 30,000-foot view and try to broaden your perspective. If nothing else, a five-minute google search will help.

Problems tend to feel bigger when they're our own. Take a step back by asking what's the worst-case scenario? Find out what feels heavy about the problem and brainstorm solutions to lighten the load. Keep it objective by asking yourself, 'what would I say if I was offering advice to friend?' Then…

Decide what you're willing to do

Meaningful, long-lasting change doesn't happen overnight. It's important to recognize what you're willing/able to do and what you're not. There is no way that I could commit to reducing all plastic consumption by tomorrow. Instead I can reference back to my strategies for how and decide what action I'm willing to take and not take.

Accept up front that this process won't be perfect. It's all about doing the best you can with what you've got when you have it. Make a list of obstacles you can expect you'll run into and decide what trades you're willing to make in the face of each obstacle.

For example, sometimes I'll be on the road and order a drink with a lid. I'll have to use a straw, but I can still order drinks in a glass with no straw as often as possible.

Sometimes I'll be at a venue that doesn't allow outside drinks to be brought in. I'll have to buy a plastic water-bottle, but I can commit to keeping a re-usable water bottle in my car, at work, and in my gym bag. Finally, sometimes I'll forget my cloth bags at home or in the car. At least I can request paper bags or carry my items out of the store.

Create the best version of you

New Year's Resolutions (or any performance goal for that matter) aren't meant to stress you out or cause you to beat yourself up when you're not perfect. They're meant to a be a motivator to keep you on task with your process. Bring purpose to your process daily by asking yourself why, creating a strategy for how, and deciding what you're willing to do. Keep the big picture in mind as you passionately pursue the best version of you.

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