It’s that time of year when Facebook is plastered with New Year resolutions, motivational quotes and renewed promises of change ahead. The gym will burst with Duracell bunnies who fall limp after a couple of weeks and we inevitably slip into old habits again – the new hobbies, fitness drive, adventures or jobs we swear ourselves often go up in smoke like the fireworks when the clock strikes twelve.
Sound familiar? The famous quote seems appropriate:
“Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it lots of times” – Mark Twain
My goal for the last seven years has been a year without mental illness and eating disorders. That’s a goal I haven’t achieved yet. That doesn’t mean it has to stop us achieving other goals in the meantime. We all fall off the wagon sometimes – the important thing is making sure we get back up again.
I began 2017 with another goal: to climb all 100 UK counties by human power in 72 days. The lightbulb moment came over a Roast Dinner and once I was committed, it was time to make it happen. Then it scared the hell out of me. Whilst planning and contemplating the challenge I felt physically sick sometimes.
Can I do this? What IF I fail? Am I good enough?
Five months later I jumped on the bike and didn’t know if it was achievable; but I was going to give it everything to find out…
When things get uncomfortable it’s all too easy to throw the towel in. That fear taught me a lot.
So, how can we help ourselves slipping off the way side? Here’s seven tips for achieving your goals and New Year resolutions in 2018.
1. You need to really, really want it
When goosebumps rush your arms you know you’ve found a passion. It has to light a fire inside when you visualise the end result. You need a fire to drive you through fear and discomfort. For me, that was standing on the final county top (Moel Famau) in Wales. If you don’t want something enough, you’re less likely to find a reason to carry on when things go wrong (see tip #4), and more likely to find an excuse.
2. Make a plan
Seems obvious. But one thing I have fallen victim to myself is expecting things to just fall into place. Sometimes we do have to just start and find a way. BUT it’s important to at least have an idea of the steps along the way, otherwise, how do we know we’re making progress? It’s these smaller milestones that keep us motivated and give us chance to adjust our approach if needed, like if you get injured when training too hard for a marathon.
3. Stop thinking of the bigger picture
People say think big, but then you need to break it down into small steps. There were times on Climb The UK I just broke down sobbing (read more in my upcoming book…) and had nothing left to give. When you’re exhausted and falling behind schedule it’s easy to start worrying what will happen the next day and the goal suddenly feels overwhelming. It’s about ‘biting small chunks off the Elephant’ – breaking it down into the next mile, hour, village, race or stone in weight… makes it seem more manageable.
4. Make yourself accountable
Once you feel you have the time, passion and dedication to achieve your goal, then you need to commit yourself. One way to make yourself accountable is to make a goal public – tell someone. Maybe it’s just me, but after that point, it feels like there’s no going back: nobody likes to let people down but most of all, nobody wants to let themselves down. Maybe you don’t want the pressure and that’s fine. But without telling people we miss out on the support and the opportunity to inspire – like everyone who got involved with Climb The UK. Apparently you can’t run a marathon without telling someone so you’re going to hear lots about my training for Manchester Marathon over the next 14 weeks… oops, I said it.
5. Be resilient
Things go wrong. Life isn’t meant to be easy; unless you want to achieve the usual mainstream goals. It’s when we’re losing control of the situation that we learn the most about ourselves and what we can achieve moving forwards. If I find a more satisfying and exciting feeling than bouncing back from adversity, I’ll let you know.
6. Scare the hell out of yourself… but be realistic
I hate the saying “nothing is impossible”. Actually, a lot of stuff is. Adventure is not for everyone. Some people have other commitments – a family to feed, a mortgage, perhaps physical or mental difficulties that make certain goals unrealistic. There’s a fine line between choosing a goal on the edge of reachable and one that sets the bar too low. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to find out is to aim a bit too high and fall – the good news is you’ll learn a lot from doing just that, rather than by setting small goals that don’t challenge you. Failure can be terrifying. But unless we’re prepared to risk failure and stretch ourselves… how can we discover just what we’re capable of achieving?
Over Christmas has been a swarm of photos of people enjoying the snowy mountains and part of me says I should be out there too. “You’re supposed to be an adventurer!”. But frankly, I saw quite enough of the UK mountains in 2017 – over 100 counties of them – and that leads on to the final tip…
We can’t be a jack of all trades. Writing my book Icefall, I pulled out of an expedition to get the manuscript finished by the deadline. Everest fundraising involved sending emails until the early hours nearly every day for a year. In training for Everest, I stopped running altogether due to recurrent injuries and was getting up at 4:00am to sneak training sessions in before working as a chef. Nowadays I get invited for hillwalks, expeditions and challenges almost every week but to hit my sub-3 hour marathon goal I need to focus on running, and to get my book written; I need to stay at home. With everything you do, ask yourself – will this achieve my goal? There’s a great book about Olympic rowing by Harriet Beveridge: “Does it Make The Boat Go Faster?”. Be ruthless. Say NO.
Why your New Year goals should scare you
It’s not just the end goal that’s rewarding. Actually, the end goal can be quite short-lived. After Climb The UK I had to get back to running again within a few weeks – the sense of achievement wears off soon enough. It’s the things we learn and the hidden opportunities that last a lifetime.
I never imagined Climb The UK would raise more than double the target for Young Minds (£25,000). I didn’t think hundreds of people would join in with the various counties and strangers would become friends. It was never expected that I’d be an award finalist at the JustGiving Endurance Fundraiser of the Year and Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year (plus grabbing a selfie with Holly Willoughby… win win), or be shortlisted for the TGO Outdoor Personality of the Year award. Being invited to write the foreword for a new book, to speak in Nepal, St James Palace in London, and to lead outdoor events was not part of the plan, nor was being recognised in the main outdoor magazines alongside the big names… which is bizarre when you’re just an everyday adventurer from Cheshire.
Most of all, at first I never thought I’d complete the challenge! Every time we overcome something our threshold gets higher and we feel like we are capable of so much more. Standing atop Moel Famau was exactly how I imagined it at the Roast Dinner a few months earlier. Thank heavens I never listened to fear when things got uncomfortable.
If we want to discover what we can truly achieve in life, especially in the face of adversity, we need to make our goals bigger than us. And that’s why they need to scare us.
Saying that – my grandma is four-foot ten, and she still scares me.
What are your goals for 2018?
… Get in touch on social media or comment below, I’d love to hear them!
If fitness or adventure is on your list, why not join me on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, in May? Whether you’re new to the outdoors and need a challenge, or a seasoned walker, this will be a memorable day for everyone. REGISTER HERE>