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New Year's Resolutions: How to Make Them Work for You, Part II

By Dr. Steve Jonas | Feb. 17, 2016, 5:39 p.m. (ET)

Last month, I began Part I of this series by noting that some folks make New Year’s resolutions and some don’t. One reason that the “don’t do it” group doesn’t is that failure to keep has not been an uncommon experience. Last month’s column contained some general principles for resolution-making that in my experience can help you to succeed. This month we are turning to some particulars, particularly in the area of mobilizing motivation. As regular readers of my columns know, this is one of my favorite topics.

As I am fond of saying, gradual change leads to permanent changes. Planning your resolution-making the right way, this time around setting yourself up for success, not failure, is half the battle. And doing so will make the other half that much easier to win.  Now here are five specific tips to help you along your way.

  1. The key to success in any behavior change you want to make, from thinking better about yourself to learning how to handle stress better, is to set goals for the process. Before you start any program, spend time (a couple weeks to a couple months) thinking about what precisely you want to do and why. Make sure whatever goals you set are ones that are reasonably doable for you.
  2. Decide that you are going to be good to yourself about your health and your racing. No more thinking about yourself as a bad person because of some unhealthy habit or slower than you’d like race results. Each of us does some good things for our health: we might not exercise, but we don't smoke. We might be a bit overweight, but we exercise. And so on. When and if you decide to tackle something new, start by thinking about what you are doing right, not what you are doing wrong. The same goes for your racing.
  3. We hear a lot about motivation. Mobilizing it, for yourself, is the central matter in achieving success in any health-promoting behavior change you decide to undertake. Motivation is a process, not a thing. It's a process, there in all of us, that links a thought or a feeling with an action. So, if you want to get motivated, focus on just what's blocking, impeding or inhibiting that link.  
  4. If you want to make some improvement in your racing and training or more generally your health (and wanting to is the first step to success), first assess where you are now. Then pick one area in which you would like to and are able to make a change, perhaps in running, cycling or swimming. Set your goals after careful thought, and then go for it. But remember, take just one step at a time. It's both unhealthy and can inhibit improving your race performance to try to do everything at once.
  5. One of the best things we can do to promote our own health is to take control of our lives and our bodies, while at the same time recognizing that while there are some things we can control there are others we cannot (in my case, innate speed — or rather lack of it). The key to success both in leading a healthy lifestyle and in healthy racing is taking control of what we can control and letting go of what we cannot.  

I do hope that you will find this little guide to making a resolution or two that will work for you to be helpful.

An earlier version of this column was published on the (now inactive) website "Your Wellness Matters," on July 22, 2010.


This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at and

Steve’s most recent multisport book is "Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It" (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at and

His first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.