New Years Resolutions

Aren't worth the bar napkin you wrote them down on.

Every year, millions of people make financial and personal commitments to things, jobs, tasks, goals, and personal growth endeavors. Then they fail.

Don't set yourself up for failure. Instead, take baby steps towards your goal.

As specific endurance coaches, we don't get the same sort of rush that your neighborhood YMCA does in January of every year. Our athletes tend to be more long term, goal setting type individuals. But, I do see the gyms and pools fill up with resolute and stalwart champions of the cause. In the first two weeks of January. By mid-February, the regular old crowd is still there. The sweating horde is gone.

Where did they go? They failed to stay resolved. Why did they fail? Because their goals were either non-specific, too difficult, both, neither, or whatever. They're not in the way!

I don't mean to belittle anyone who makes a commitment. What I am doing is drawing light onto the fact that most people are just not wired to make a big change overnight.

Today I'll ramble about personal finance instead of sports for a bit. Most of us have financial goals we're serious about achieving. Some of us are better at it than others. Just like sports. Using spending and budgets as an example:

Most people don't stick to a budget. Financial experts generally advise families to develop an overall budget. You can break it out however you like, but the bottom line is to spend less than you earn. The difference goes in your piggy bank. If you can do this month in and month out, eventually you have to buy another piggy bank. Then, when you're old and tired and sick of work, you can break open your piggy banks and spend the money you saved. Yay for you!

But budgets may offer only the illusion of control. Much like a triathlon training plan. Life happens and your plan goes out the window. Be flexible! (Financial yoga!).

This brings us back to setting SMART goals instead of making large, cloudy, indistinct commitments, like 'get in shape' and 'save more money.'

I like the phrase baby steps. It is something we can all relate to. Small steps towards something greater. In the vein of baby steps with SMART goals in the financial world, let's look at spending.

Unless you are already exercising serious discipline or earn silly amounts of dough, there are a ton of ways you can spend less (re: save more). Dine out less. Use discount codes and coupons. Brew your coffee at home instead of buying a $5 latte five days a week. Save gas by running all your errands at once instead of four separate trips.

You don't need to shave $1,000 off your monthly spending out the door. Just make specific, achievable, realistic changes that you can hang onto for longer than a couple of weeks.

Back to the athletic world, think about completing an Ironman. If you haven't ridden a bike in twenty years and your longest run in 2016 was chasing your dog down the street, you have a long way to go. Maybe you should pick a sprint triathlon first. Then an Olympic distance triathlon. Then a half-Ironman. From there, the climb to the top is more realistic.

Breaking down your big goals into smaller, more immediate achievements is the way. Make them specific.

Instead of "I want to have three million dollars when I'm 65," try "I will only dine out once this week."

Instead of "I want to do an Ironman...someday," try "I will swim for twenty minutes this Monday and Wednesday, run-walk two miles this Thursday, and ride my bike 15 miles this Saturday."

Instead of failing to make permanent and lasting changes, set yourself up for success with SMART, happy, tiny baby steps.

Marty Gaal, NSCA CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach. He has been working with endurance athletes since 2002 and is the co-founder of One Step Beyond. He counts pennies on Tuesdays at 4pm.

One Step Beyond is the producer of the Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD, intended to help new to intermediate triathlon swimmers become faster and more powerful in the water.