“Set Goals, Not Limits": Why New Year's Resolutions Are False Goals

By: Dave McGillivray, for Rainier Fruit

Editor's note: Our road to Boston started not even one year ago when we decided to be a Boston Marathon sponsor. We didn’t know what we were getting into, but we knew that some of the most inspiring athletes in the country had a goal to be there and we wanted to be there too.

During our first Boston adventure, we met legendary Race Director and professional athlete Dave McGillivray and we were moved by his stories and motivated by his ideas so we knew we needed him on our team as a #RunWithRainier #WholesomeToTheCore Ambassador.

So this month, we asked Dave to share with us some of his advice for setting goals and why New Year’s Resolutions don’t really work out. We purposely didn’t share this with you on January 1st or January 5th. If you’ve already lost track of your resolutions, don’t despair…set a goal today.

Dave McGillivray's Miles of Advice

First, Happy New Year to all!  For many people, entering the new year is like hitting the “reset” button.  Time to re-evaluate.  Time to reflect on the past year and determine your goals for the new year.   In other words, it’s that time of year to identify your New Year’s resolutions.  It’s human nature for most to proceed in this fashion and I certainly support that.  It’s always healthy to have goals and objectives.

However, for me, I don’t typically make resolutions as much as I make commitments. And, I don’t wait until the calendar hits January 1st to do so, either. Usually, I don’t need the calendar to flip from December to January to motivate me to do something I should have been doing all year. As soon as I decide something is important to pursue, I do the following:

  • Determine if I really, really want to pursue it.
  • If I do, I assess how realistic it is to accomplish given where I am at and if it is truly a reasonable goal that is attainable.
  • I decide if I am willing to accept the “sacrifices” involved to accomplish it – that could mean setting aside the time, giving up some social activities, getting up earlier each morning and re-prioritizing my day.
  • Determining if I have “earned the right” to do this.
  • Being patient and giving myself enough lead time to ease into it, chip away and eventually, accomplishing my goal.
  • Setting it all up for success, not failure.
  • Then making the commitment first to myself and then to others close to me that I am going to do this.

A few years back, I was diagnosed with “severe coronary artery disease”. On that very day, I committed to changing my lifestyle that very moment by adjusting my diet, addressing my level of daily stress and improving my sleep habits. I didn’t wait until the New Year to make a resolution. I committed on that very day and have not swayed from that commitment in over three years. Of course, this scenario was a pretty critical one in my life but I still could have waited until the New Year to make the changes but, of course, I didn’t.

In 1978, I ran 3,452 miles across the United States from Medford, OR to Medford, MA in 80 days. Why did I do this? Because I wanted to. However, I didn’t just say I want to do this and then headed out the door. That would have been reckless. I trained and planned for four years, did a one week trial run from Boston to Albany, NY and was patient in doing the work and planning and earning the right to do it. I finally made the commitment to do it when I felt ready and it was time to do so.

To me, New Year’s resolutions are usually false goals for most people. They are not made because people truly have thought this all out and have made the honest commitment to accomplish the goal. It’s just that “time of year” and is tradition and what people do. I get a kick out of this funny line I once read about New Year’s resolutions – “I am opening up a gym called Resolutions. It will have exercise equipment for the month of January and then it will turn into a bar for the remaining eleven months of the year.” Funny, but it drives home the sad reality of most New Year’s resolutions.

I am certainly not against making commitments at the beginning of the new year. But, it should be more about the sincere determination of the commitment itself than it is about the timing of when you make it. It’s like receiving a card or email from someone for no reason or for any particular occasion at all but just because they wanted to express a special feeling. That gesture has more impact and means so much more than when you receive something because of a calendar occasion.

One of my favorite mottos is “Set goals, not limits”. When someone says “they can’t do something”, they are setting limits. Many times it is not about not being able to do something, it is more about not truly wanting to do something. It’s a matter of choice – we all have choices to make. Once you decide you want something bad enough, you have to have the patience in pursuing and accomplishing it and realize that it takes time and dedication. There really is no such thing as failure if you try, only learning experiences. You fail if you don’t try.

So, even though New Year’s is over, you don’t have to wait until next New Year’s to make a commitment to better yourself or accomplish something extraordinary. You can do that right…..NOW!   Good luck!