Swim, bike, run, write.

Taking on 2019: How to Avoid January Syndrome and Set Goals You'll Actually Achieve


Hi, hello, welcome to 2019! I was about to publish a blog post that had 'bum crack' in the title but I figured I should probably post something vaguely civilised* before I launch back in to raving on about snot, backsides and triathlon.

So January is here. That's fun. The month where all the food companies that were telling you to buy their ultra indulgent chocolate-coated, salted caramel, bacon-wrapped cupcakes a few weeks ago, are now trying to sell you overpriced detox teas and boiled kale. The month where you're pressured into setting a long list of wildly unachievable resolutions and if you're not slaying it (or whatever the kids are saying these days) within the first week you feel like a total failure. This, combined with the weird new trend I've seen on Facebook for bikinis which can only be described as fanny-hammocks, makes for a bewildering kind of month.

Fanny-hammocks aside (seriously, please let's not make those a thing), the start of a new year and the pressure to be excelling when you're still only just figuring out how to dress in something other than Christmas pyjamas can feel pretty overwhelming. The "new year, new me" frenzy makes us feel like we need to launch into a Mission Impossible-style life overhaul. We set ourselves impossible standards that we can't maintain, we pile on the pressure and we tell ourselves we need to be better. This, leads to January syndrome. That panicky feeling that you should be doing this, that and the other - all at once. That you should be bossing it, all day every day. It starts to feel like everyone else has got it all figured out. You want to get going, you want to throw yourself into the new year. But the pressure cooker that has become your brain is so set on getting it all perfect, that it makes it so hard to just start.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't have goals, aims or ambitions for the year. Goals are great - and trust me, I've got some pretty lofty ones for myself this year - but so is being kind to yourself. January is rubbish enough, without making yourself anxious and miserable by heaping on the pressure. It's okay if you need to give yourself a bit of time. You don't have to have a 15 point action plan for the year stuck on the fridge by 2nd January in order to make the year successful. It's okay if you're not 100% decided on your goals yet.  Not having it all figured out quite yet - or not feeling ready to get going right away, doesn't mean your ambitions aren't going to happen. It just means you need to step back and give yourself a little time to work out what you want and how you're going to get there.

This year, I want to get into the shape of my life for Ironman Zurich and achieve things on the swim-bike-run front that feel a teeny bit impossible right now. I want to finally find the guts to do what I need to do to turn writing into my day job. I want to finish the children's book I started writing 3 years ago. Oh and I'm getting married in less than 10 months. But the first week of January? That was spent unpacking boxes in our new house, finishing up the last of the Christmas chocolate (someone's got to eat it) and trying to remember my own postcode. As much as I felt the pressure to be one of these "at my desk by 7am on 2nd January with a green juice, wearing diamond encrusted underpants that will solve world hunger while I work" kind of girls... I needed to give myself the time to stop my head spinning and get my life in order before I could crack on. Because it's hard to boss it when you don't know where your underpants are.

From my experience working as a personal trainer, the goals that get achieved are the ones that are set with a clear mind and that come from a positive place. The ones that have been mulled over a little. The ones that are broken down into baby steps to make getting started that little bit easier.  Hasty, unattainable targets that are set in the panicky midst of January-syndrome are the ones that end up gathering dust by 1st February. Not sure where to start? I actually wrote a long post on this at the start of 2017 - click here! But, if you can't be arsed to time travel back to 2017, the key things are:

Set a goal that you genuinely believe you can achieve, and that you honestly care about
You're far more likely to actually get there if you can see yourself achieving your goal, and it's something that you're passionate about. A goal is a good one if you've got a solid answer when someone asks you why you want to do that. When motivation and will-power falter, it's that underlying excitement and determination that will get you through.

Break the end goal down into little milestones
Because it makes it so much easier to get started when the first steps are laid out in front of you. Working towards a goal is a process - "run a marathon", for example, might sound all big and scary on its own. So much so, that it might put you off getting started. But bring yourself back to the start of the process. "Contact a coach" or "get out for a 30 minute run" don't seem quite so intimidating. Off you trot.

Consistent is better than perfect
You don't have to do it all perfectly, all at once. Just do one small thing a day that's going to help you towards achieving your goal. It all adds up. And when things don't go 100% according to plan - see it as an opportunity to learn, rather than a failure.

Essentially what I'm getting at here is this: It's okay to feel a bit overwhelmed and lost at the start of the year. It's not you, it's January. It's okay if you're still finding your way out of the post-Christmas chocolate hangover. It's okay, if you need to give yourself a little breathing space to clear your head before you launch yourself into the year.

All guns blazing is useless, if you don't know what direction to blaze in. Here's to the long game. To self-care. And to not embracing the fanny-hammock bikini trend in 2019, because the world is already baffling enough.


*I've managed to use the phrase "fanny-hammock" three, nope four, times in this post so clearly the sense of decorum ended after the first sentence. New year, same weird me.

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