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by Katherine Irwin

January 5, 2012

Make better resolutions

This may come to a shock to some and a reality to others, but according to Marti Hope Gonzales, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, research has shown that about 80 percent of people who set a New Year’s Resolution on January 1 will fail by Valentine’s Day. January is a great time to look at what you want to improve upon over the course of the New Year. It’s a new year, a new you. I am sure we have all set a New Year’s Resolution at one time or another. Think back to some of the resolutions you have set in the past. What were they? Why did you set that specific resolution? Did you accomplish them?

The way I like to approach my New Year’s Resolution is to set it up the same way I do goal setting. Goal setting is more than just simply stating something you want to achieve. Goal setting should be seen as creating a game plan, a road map if you will, on how to achieve what it is that your truly want. The steps to creating a solid goal setting plan are relatively simple and the results will be life changing.

Is Your Resolution S-M-A-R-T?

When setting goals, it is important to first look at the big picture. What is it that you truly want? Where do you want to go with this goal? Why do you want to achieve this goal? Once you have answered these questions, you should be able to think of your “big picture goal,” also known as a long-term goal. From here, you can then create the short-term goals that will help you accomplish this long-term goal. I like to call these short-term goals the stepping-stones to get you where you want to go. While setting both long and short-term goals, follow the SMART acronym. SMART goals mean that they are Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic and Time-Based.

Here is an example of a goal that I typically see with swimmers: “I want to swim faster.” Now keeping the SMART acronym in mind, is this a good goal to set? Well, it is on its way to being a good goal. Let’s make it SMART! This is an example on how to change this goal to help you actually achieve it: “I am going to drop 2 seconds in my 200 free by August 1, 2012.” Now let’s see, is it specific? Yes (I am saying exactly what I want to do). Is it measurable? Yes (I am able to measure the time I want to drop). Is it adjustable? Of course (as I am getting closer to August, I can adjust it if need be). Is it realistic? For sure (with hard work and determination, I can achieve this)! And is this time-based? Yes (I have set a deadline for August 1, 2012).

What’s Next?

Okay the SMART goals have now been set. You are all done, right? Nope! Setting the goals is just part of the process. Now that you know what you want to do, make sure it is written down and put in a place where you will see it on a daily basis (refrigerator, bathroom mirror, bulletin board, etc.). You need to keep your goal on your mind if you want to achieve it. Another way that I find keeping track of my goals is to keep a goal-progress journal. I check in regularly in my journal on what I did that day to work towards my goal, what may have been challenging that day and what I thought I did well. It is also fun to look back at your journal after achieving your goal and reflecting back on all the hard work you’ve done!

Now before we move forward, I want you to think back to your previous New Year’s Resolutions over the last few years. I am sure there are many of you who have accomplished your goals, but some of you that may have not. We also may know what seems to be our inevitable downfall, while the rest of us may have no idea why we cannot seem to carry out our goals. Where do you fit? When you make the decision to make a change in your life, you are more than likely going to come across some roadblocks along the way. These roadblocks can stop us in our tracks and prevent us from moving forward. However, if we are prepared for these challenges, we do not let them throw us off our course.

I will be discussing what some of these roadblocks looks like and how to prepare for them in a follow-up article in the next issue of STREAMLINES.

Katie Irwin is a Mental Trainer® with Mental Training, Inc and Performance Consulting with Katie Irwin. She works with athletes and exercisers of all ages and abilities on their mental toughness. Irwin, a Masters swimmer, is particularly interested in working with swimmers. For more information, please visit


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