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How to achieve your New Year’s resolutions

It’s that time of year, when shouts of “New Year, new you!” are plastered all over the internet. But if you’re an event rider, there are a few rules you can follow to make sure your eventing ambitions for the New Year don’t go astray. 
 
They may be a cliché, and it is widely reported that 80 per cent of them fail by February, but New Year’s resolutions can be a really effective way of achieving your goals – particularly for sportspeople. 
 
Setting resolutions or goals for yourself in eventing is important as they provide direction and focus for the season. They also help to build confidence as you can look back on what you’ve achieved at the end of the year.
 
So, what should your New Year's resolutions be and how can you stick to them?
 

Types of New Year’s resolutions

 
There are three types of resolution, or ‘goals’:
 
  • Outcome goals – these focus on winning or beating an opponent. They are often short-term, one-off and can be frustrating. 
  • Performance goals – these are highly personal and help to motivate you to go out and perform to the best of your ability. For these types of goals, you need to focus on areas of your riding you want to improve, such as riding a more accurate dressage test or developing a more balanced canter.
  • Process goals – these focus on technical skill, e.g. riding shoulder in, and to achieve them you need to concentrate on each stage of the movement, such as where your legs and hands need to be positioned.
 
For most people, focusing on performance and process means that the outcomes will look after themselves. Rather than obsessing about the end result, concentrate on the journey and making sure each step you take is done to the best of your ability. This way, you are in control and continuously learning and developing as a rider.
 
Regardless of what your resolutions are, it is important they are SMART:
 
  • Specific – resolving to simply “get better at riding” is too general. Try resolving to get better at a specific movement or technique. 
  • Measurable – make sure you will be able to check in from time to time to see how you are getting on. For example, your coach might be able to assess how you are performing or you could try filming yourself. 
  • Action-orientated – your resolution must be something that you have the power to change. You are in control of improving your show jumping, so go ahead and book that training session!
  • Realistic – if you were competing at BE90 last season, making the leap to five star this season is unlikely. Make sure your resolutions are realistically attainable.
  • Timely – it’s useful to have one short-, one mid- and one long-term resolution so you can focus on something for shorter bursts and hopefully enjoy a confidence boost when you achieve that short-term goal, which will motivate you to achieve the others. 
 

How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions

 
There are three common reasons why 80 per cent of people give up on their resolutions: they are too broad (i.e. unmeasurable), too big (i.e. unrealistic) or there are too many
 
Picking SMART resolutions should help you become one of the 20 per cent who succeed, but there are more things you can do to help you achieve your goals:
 
  • Pick a resolution that helps you achieve something that is important to you, not what others think you should be doing. 
  • Don’t choose your New Year’s resolutions on the spur of the moment on New Year’s Eve as they will be based on your mindset at that particular moment. Consider your resolutions for a few days to make sure they are meaningful.
  • Make a plan. If your resolution is to improve a certain aspect of your riding, book some training to make it happen. 
  • Share your resolutions with friends and family – they can help support you. And you may even find a ‘resolution buddy’ to help you through it!
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake or get off-track with your resolution. Speak to yourself as you would a friend in a similar situation – you wouldn’t berate them or call them a failure.  
  • Reward yourself for making progress with your resolution. Reached a short-term goal? Buy yourself a new top or pair of boots! 
 

New Year’s resolutions – in summary

 
Though they get a bad reputation, New Year’s resolutions could be a really useful tool to help you achieve your goals this eventing season. As long as they are SMART, you plan ahead and make sure you have the support of your friends, family and yourself, resolutions are your new training tools! 
 
Happy New Year and happy eventing!