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Set Your Goals and Keep Them!

Illustration by Isabelle Cardinal

Every year, thousands of runners make promises to eat more veggies and cover more miles. But often those resolutions don’t get much further than the first few weeks of the year. Women’s Running caught up with Emmy Award–winning life coach Rhonda Britten for some pointers on how to maintain willpower and turn flash-in-the-pan resolutions into permanent life changes.

Women’s Running: Why do we make resolutions in the first place?
Rhonda Britten: It’s pretty simple: People don’t want to repeat the past. We make resolutions out of a desire to change. For many of us, flipping the calendar page signifies the beginning of another chapter in life. It means saying goodbye to what didn’t work before, learning from our mistakes and moving on. But before settling on a goal, you must prepare for this life change and be willing to practice it. You wouldn’t jump into a pool without checking the temperature and depth first, right? Lay the groundwork for this new aspect of your life before you dive in.

WR: What are the most common resolutions?
RB: In my experience, women value love, relationships, health and security, as opposed to men, who seem to focus more on financial gains. Of course weight-loss resolutions are common for both males and females, but the reasoning behind them often differ. Women are often going through some identity issues to justify the change. If your goal is weight loss, ask yourself, Where is this goal stemming from? Is it a lack of self-confidence? If so, consider reframing your goal. And don’t wait—empower yourself now.

WR: Why is it so easy to break a resolution?
RB: People make promises to themselves that are too big and bold. Changes need to be incremental to go the long haul. It takes time to adapt new skills into daily life. For example, instead of setting a goal of losing 20 pounds, use smaller and more attainable milestones, say losing 5 pounds every month until you reach 20. This will make it more likely that these changes will turn into permanent behavior. We live in an instant-is-realistic society and seem to give up if we don’t get immediate results. Resolutions are too often planned like a sprint when they should be thought of like a marathon. As any runner knows, you have to spend quite a bit of time pounding that pavement before you cross the finish line.

WR: What are your tips for sticking with a goal?
RB: The buddy system works best. When you have to stay accountable to someone else, it’s harder to give up on your own goal. Tracking is also helpful when transforming any aspect of your life. Just like the good old sticker chart in kindergarten, a visual illustration of progress is an excellent motivator—you’re monitoring yourself based on data and facts rather than emotions (how you feel you’re doing). Concrete evidence is a great indicator of a job well done.

Coaching also helps. While training for a marathon, my running coach helped me overcome some knee issues just by doing some simple exercises and making a few adjustments. By following his direction, I was able to finish the race. A life coach can work in the same way—simple tips from a pro can help guide you to success. Finally, be gentle on yourself. We are our worst critics and often too hard on ourselves. Without kindness, failure is unavoidable.

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