I spend the last few days of each year and the first few days reviewing what happened and thinking about what I want to happen next. The new year is a great “temporal landmark”! This year more than most, I find myself needing that help.
We are in the process of closing up 2023 and I look forward to sharing the ups and downs with you next month. In general, we continued to move out of the doldrums of the past few years, adding 300 new members to our WCY community and raising almost $390,000 including $58,0000 in additions to our endowment. (We are still tallying 2023 gifts and expect to exceed our goal for the end of year Annual Fund!) The year was not without its challenges and I can’t think about 2023 without remembering Sandi Roman, who meant a lot to this community. If you see the staff wearing pink, that’s for her.
For now, I want to look forward: You may have heard of the “fresh start effect”. It’s a finding that suggests we are more likely to set goals and feel motivation to achieve them on specific dates or events, such as the New Year, a birthday, or other anniversaries. However, lots of research shows that for all the people who start the year with big goals and good intentions, lots of them lose their motivation and fizzle out within a few months. That’s where having a community like the WCY can help.
To understand what we can do, you need to understand why people lose their motivation for many reasons. The biggest one is that after a few weeks, that “new” goal that seemed so important and achievable now seems distant and difficult. Most people find it much easier to wake up to exercise on the first day of a new goal than on day 30 because it’s novel and we love new things. Another reason that motivation can fade is because we are more focused on the short-term emotional obstacles (waking up in the cold, and I’m tired, and my work out stuff is not ready… And on and on) than on the long-term happiness they will bring (I feel better, am stronger, have more energy and confidence, etc…).
Using the WCY to Turn Obstacles into Encouragement
The WCY is the perfect place to turn those short-term obstacles into positive encouragements for two reasons. First, our community is great. After a couple of classes or regular workouts in the weight room, track, or pool, you will start to know people. The sense of belonging to a particular time at this Y is palpable. The 5:30am swimmers all know and support each other. They share stories and encouragements. When one is out, they either know why or find out! I think they first come for the exercise and then come for the company! The same is true for the exercise classes and walkers. If you make the smallest effort, you will find that people welcome you into their orbit. And those relationships can help you keep your motivation over the long haul. They will help you lay out your work out bag in the evening, wake you up in the morning, and help you enjoy your work out.
The second reason people give in to short term obstacles is because the little things mount up: There is no parking, it’s far away, you need a lock for your locker, you can’t take a shower before work, you don’t know where to start, your dog needs to be fed. With the exception of feeding the dog, we can help take care of all of those. We have lots of parking, we provide locks, you can take a shower after you work out, and our staff can help you design a workout that will suit you. Just ask.
Goals, Buddies, and Habit Stacking
Creating relationships and eliminating small obstacles are two areas we can help you make a fresh start. A few things you can do to follow through and meet your goals include, setting achievable goals to start, finding a commitment buddy, and Habit Stacking.
Setting achievable goals is often the hardest thing to do with New Year’s Resolutions. I know I fall into the trap of thinking, “By Christmas next year, I want to turn 12 pounds of fat into muscle. Seems like a reasonable goal for a full year! But unless I break it down into smaller chunks – one pound a month – it becomes monolithic. Another way to do it is to just make a one-month goal. When you see some success, that can propel you to make a new goal for the next month. And on and on.
Commitment buddies are great, too. Find someone you trust and share your goal with them. Ask them to check in with you about it. No, not to nag you or try to make you feel bad if you fail, just to check in: “Hey, how are you doing on your goal?” There is something about saying goals out loud that make them more solid.
Habit stacking is the other tool that can help. You do it by connecting something you already do with something you want to do. For example, if you always stop at Dunkin Doughnuts for coffee before work, connect that to walking on the track for 20 mins. Drive to the Y, walk, then treat yourself to coffee. Another example: If you want to start meditating, connect it to brushing your teeth. (And remember to set achievable goals… 2 minutes of meditation might be enough for the first week… then 5, then?! Avoid the trap of, “If I don’t meditate for an hour each day, it’s just not worth it.”)
Happy New Year!
Mostly, I want to share a wish that I heard over the holidays: May beautiful things happen to you. And when they do, may you believe that you are worthy of every single one of them.