The main failure I see in most people’s resolution setting is that the resolutions themselves tend to live in a vacuum without any clear systems around them for support. If you are relying solely on your willpower and excitement to get you to some new achievement you are likely to run out of both—well before the end.
You need to use the initial energy at the time of resolving to build a system that will work for you, even when the new passion is gone.
1. Get Clear About Your Goal
Excellent goals are SMART (it’s a tired acronym but it’s still good): Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. You can read more about this type of goal setting here. What’s most important is getting objective and personal with your goals.
Make sure that your goal could be measured by an outside observer.
- Subjective: Get Stronger
- Objective: Able to bench press 200lbs by the end of the year.
- Subjective: Awesome at Two-Sword
- Objective: Able to actively spar for two minutes with two swords, or able to complete the Manciolino two-sword assalto without pausing.
Sometimes I will set a theme and then describe that theme with measurable objectives in point form. Don’t go overboard. If you set a really good objective goal like “run a marathon” you’ll find that it carries with it many other subsidiary accomplishments like “be able to run to the bus without wheezing”. Make sure the goal you set is meaningful and one you believe you can accomplish in the timeframe you’re aiming for.
You might want to beat your training nemesis in a bout, but a goal that relies on your relative performance to someone else can be tricky to chase. What if they leave your club, or have the time to train way harder than you this year? Find a way to articulate your goal in relation to your own physicality and character. What would be a personal goal that would put you in the best shape to meet your competitive objectives?
2. Write it Down but Don’t Share It
Once you have an objective and personal goal, write it down somewhere that allows you to regularly check-in on it. Some recent research has suggested that you shouldn’t talk about your goals too much with others, better to keep them private and personal.
The research showed that those who talked up their goals tended to not strive as hard for them because they had already received the social payoff up front. Create accountability by sharing your activities (not just verbally but physically) with others. Leave sharing the result for your celebration.
3. Create Systems and Rhythms
Answer these questions:
- What can I do every day or week to achieve my goal?
- How will I check in on my goal each month?
Big things are achieved by making incremental steps toward them in a systematic way. Create a daily or weekly rhythm then plan out how you’ll attack those events in advance. Write out your training or action plan (or use an existing one: running, longsword fundamentals, rapier fundamentals). If you have your plan in advance it’s way easier to take action when you’re feeling low.
Leverage Your Calendar and Todolist
I use repeating tasks in my todolist app Remember the Milk to keep my daily and weekly rhythms going. Others setup repeating events in their calendar apps, or carry a paper date book that does the same thing.
Schedule your monthly check-in with a friend, life or training partner right now. They have goals they want your help with too!
4. Set Rewards or Punishments
Rewards and consequences could be extrinsic or intrinsic. For me I find a lot of reward in identifying the milestones on the way to the big goal that are worth savouring on their own. Being able to run for ten minutes straight on its own was an awesome reward. For others, having an extrinsic reward like buying yourself a new sword, or mini-rewards like special events or celebrations can be motivating.
Punishments too can be powerful for some — there are a ton of apps, like Stickk, that you can use to bind a monetary consequence to your success or failure (typically in the form of a payoff to a friend or charity you don’t like).
Regardless of your reward structure, plan it out in advance.
5. Plan for Barriers and Blocks
Take out a sheet of paper and write all of the things that might get in between you and your resolution. Consider both external and internal factors. You’ve set goals before, use that knowledge to help identify what has typically gotten in your way.
Examples of common barriers:
- Schedule at work can get really overloaded.
- A specific family event derails everything.
- Mental health ebbs, like a cyclical depression.
See if you can identify any personal emotional blocks that might stand in your way, like:
- Loss of confidence when things don’t come easy.
- Getting frustrated in long plateaus.
Putting some heartfelt thought into these barriers at the outset in itself can give you more power over them. Take it further by identifying one or two key things you can add to your system to help you avoid the block. Then write down one or two contingency plans you can put in place now to help you get back on track if (or when) you get caught in one of these pitfalls.
Failing is Part of the Process
One of the things that has helped me stay on the goal setting train so long is a recognition that failure is inevitable, it’s giving up that I have control over.
Often when you fail you still make it 80% further than you would have otherwise—now it’s just a question of setting a new goal around the gap. Sometimes striving for goals tells you important things about what you’re really interested in and committed to. The thing is if you’re open to it you’ll always learn something that will help you approach the next goal with more tools and a greater awareness, and that’s where the payoff is.
Life is not lived in the future. Goals and resolutions, when used best, give you a structure for purposeful action today regardless of outcome—and that’s where fulfillment lies.
How We Can Help You
DuelloTV has tons of tools for helping you set meaningful rhythms around your sword training. Be sure to sign-up for the Daily Drill, leverage the Training Plans for the fundamentals as well as apprentice material for rapier and longsword, and join into weekly online live classes to keep you inspired and get feedback!
Enjoy your training!