Making resolutions is easy. Keeping them is hard.
Why? Because we are very clear on where we’d like to end up, what we’d like to do, how we’d like to look or act or feel. We see people accomplishing things all around us. Success stories that we find inspiring and motivational. If they can do it, surely we can.
Statistics say that about 60 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution. Only around eight percent of us will keep them. So what’s the secret?
- extreme discipline
- good parenting
Some or all of these may play a role but, in my experience – and it’s my business to help people hold onto their resolve – there is one thing that best helps people maintain their resolve: a good coach. And, by this, I mean someone who will help them get from where they are to where they want to be.
That’s the definition of a coach. And coaching is not just for sports any more. There is personal coaching, business coaching, fitness coaching, even family coaching. People are discovering they need some help sustaining effort toward their goal. Most of us are not born with resolve. We develop it with the help of people who want to see us succeed and will keep us on track toward it.
But asking for help is not something that comes easily to most of us. We figure we should just be able to DO this. If we just keep our eye on the prize we should head in the right direction, and eventually, we’ll achieve. And at first, we usually do. In our diligence, we may strategize and set goals. Maybe even hire a professional to help us get started.
But then we shove off; we’ve got this. That’s when the going gets tough. When progress slows, we lose interest and our motivation plummets. It starts to seem like we’ll never get there, so what’s the point?
One place where I see this clearly is when athletes are injured, perhaps require a surgical procedure, and end up in “rehab.” Surgery is gonna “fix” them and then physical therapy is gonna get them back to action. A good doctor and good PT can definitely inspire this in an athlete (or a middle-aged guy who slips a disc). The athlete – let’s call him Joe – toughs out the repair and dutifully attends the nine sessions of physical therapy his insurance will pay for to rehab.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for three weeks, Joe shows up at 9 a.m. and sweats it out until 10 a.m. The PT accompanies him around the therapy gym, teaching him the exercises, telling him how many reps to do and how many sets, then charts his progress. At the end of three weeks, Joe bids farewell to the PT. On Monday Joe realizes he is not ready to go back into action. He hasn’t lost his resolve; he’s lost his coach.
What Joe didn’t learn in rehab was that he would need to keep doing his exercises to keep progressing toward a full return to action. Graduating from PT is more like graduating from high school. Getting your diploma doesn’t guarantee a job. You have to sustain the effort, maybe with renewed determination, to make progress. And now it’s harder because you’re doing it on your own. There’s no one to tell you what to do. Even if you developed very good study habits, it’s nearly impossible to chart your course on your own.
That’s when you need a coach. A good coach will:
- help you set realistic goals
- help you sketch out a trajectory to reach those goals
- help you develop a program to sustain your gains
- help you devise ways to see your progress (make it measurable)
- help you revise steps when they are too steep
- help you invest in yourself and schedule rewards and realistic feedback
- be patient and help you be patient with yourself
- encourage your effort and celebrate your success
You see, Joe’s problem was that, while he sweated, his PT did all the brain work. When he “graduated,” all Joe came away with was the diploma. Not the know-how to continue his training because he didn’t anticipate he would need it. He wasn’t prepared for the maintenance phase of rehab, the care and tending.
If you, like Joe, end up injured and rehabbing, don’t rely on resolve. Get the program in writing and pictures. Ask the physical therapist or personal trainer to write down what you have done. Draw pictures. Record the number of sets and reps. Then, sketch out a game plan for “after graduation.”
But, on your Monday morning, don’t be surprised if it’s harder than you thought. Motivation will get you going, but to sustain your progress, find a coach. Paid or unpaid. Parent or mentor. Teacher or friend. Tell them what you want to achieve and invite them along for the ride. Ask them to be honest. Insist they not let you give up, because you, like Joe, will likely have moments when you’ll want to.
Coaches, mentors, teachers, friends, if someone trusted you enough to ask if you would walk beside them could you be “a good coach?”
Parents, if you can’t be “the coach,” it’s okay. Most of us can’t. There’s something about “coaching our own kid” that saps our objectivity.
Find another person who can walk this road with your athlete. I’m always honored when parents ask me to do this with their kids. To walk with them through the rocky parts. Great coaches have done this with my kids.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t take it easy on those kids; they don’t expect me to. I help them work as hard as they can, as effectively as they can, to progress as much as they are able. When there are road blocks, we re-group and start again. My role is to set up expectations, fashion the scaffolding and support them in their climb.
But I do have a secret. I call it the “parental no-nagging policy.” I insist that parents not nag kids to “do their exercises.” Reminders, feedback, reflection, evaluation all come from me. When the kid asks. This way the workout belongs to the kids. Their progress is theirs alone. Their failure is theirs alone. That’s the best motivator I know.
Haven’t made a New Year’s resolution? Why not this: Be a good coach to a kid who needs a good coach. Remember, a coach just carries someone from where they are to where they want to be. A coach provides the wheels for steady progress and keeps a fix on the destination.
Happy New Year from Fit2Finish.
Here’s more to help you guide a young athlete.