How to Avoid Getting into a New Year's Rut

At the beginning of a new year you are usually full of enthusiasm for the possibilities of the next 12 months and it's likely you've also made a list of your goals or resolutions and even worked out a plan or next steps to achieving those goals.

The first days or weeks go along just fine and then you start coming up against some challenges or obstacles you thought you had figured out.  For most people, I believe the three main killers to achieving your goals or resolutions are the following:

(1) Lack of motivation

(2) Lack of inspiration

(3) Distraction

A lack of motivation usually creeps in rather than stopping you in your tracks.  For me, it starts off as being too tired or busy to attend to my goals which concern my writing, running, or creative pursuits.  A deficit of inspiration soon follows and starts feeding off the lack of motivation and, finally, to top it off I then start distracting myself with everything and anything to avoid taking the steps to achieving my goals.  Sound familiar?

Over the last couple of years, I have taken stock of what hasn't worked for me in the past and I have found the next 3 tips the best way to get past any ruts:

(1) Spend time on your goals no matter how short

You might not think spending 5 or 10 minutes working on your goals or resolutions would be worth it but, those few minutes usually end up becoming 15, 20, or even 30 minutes without you noticing.  A short walk or run turns into something longer in fine weather or even on cold, rainy days, just being outside in nature provides ample motivation.

(2) Don't aim for perfection the first time around

This year I hope to get one or two short stories published.  I have written several articles and reviews in the recent past but fiction is something I haven't touched in a while.  I have plenty of ideas, with some that I like more than others, filling up a number of scraps of paper and notebooks, but it has been some time since I have crafted a true work of fiction.

Last weekend, I decided to start writing my first short story for this year and it was messy, terrible stuff.  But you know what?  It was cathartic to get that first attempt out of the way.  I found out how not to begin my short story and what I liked and didn't like about where the story would go.  I have started my second attempt, kept some ideas I liked from the first try, with a clearer understanding of how the story will develop.  The main objective is to get a feel for what you are trying to achieve by trying out different things and realise you're on a journey of discovery.

(3) Be consistent - slow and steady wins the race

One of my other goals this year is to improve my half-marathon time by 10-15 minutes compared to last year.  It's going to require a lot of hard work but the simplest thing I can do is to be consistent in doing the additional speed work, hills, and strength training needed to achieve this.  I've already changed some of my usual routine of simply going out for a run in the early morning and I have started to notice improvements in my times and comfort levels during runs.  Spread out your next steps towards achieving your goals, follow through on them on a regular basis and you will soon begin to see minor changes and improvements building up.

Remember, we're just starting out a new year and there's plenty of time to figure out what you want to achieve and your plan or next steps.  Good luck and happy 2016!