Fresh Starts by Sean Fortune
As we’re fast approaching the holidays and New Year, a period of reflection, gratitude, and new beginnings is upon us. It’s that time of year when we take account of what went right, wrong, and sideways, and begin anew with a fresh start and renewed vigor. I’ve always loved the New Year as it allowed me to reset, and begin initiatives with a clean slate. That was always felt very energizing to me.
Runners are used to fresh starts — we typically go through training cycles (marathon build-ups, cross country seasons, etc.) that have a distinct beginning and end with a recovery period immediately following to recharge. Once refreshed, we start again with a new race to train for or another seasonal cycle to go through. This period of “overload” — in-season training (or any activity with a clearly defined goal, like, say – writing!) that culminates with a peak event — championships (or, say, the completion of a screenplay!) followed by a “refractory period“ — scheduled time-off to recharge, allows for a healthy and manageable way to be productive. Knowing you have a clearly defined “end date” based on time rather than the achievement of your resolution can power you through the trying times you’ll certainly come across. The power of this cyclical approach lies in the knowledge that you get a break in between the bouts of hard work regardless of whether you’re successful or not. With this approach, success can be thought of as process-based, not outcome-based. And you continually start again until eventually you achieve your goal. The key to this approach is that once you reach your pre-determined end, it’s crucial to reset by allowing a significant period of “not doing.” This period can have different degrees to it. For me, if it’s a running break, I recharge by still running, but I stop training with purpose. That means no mileage goals or workout days. If it’s a writing break, I stop writing completely, but I allow myself to jot notes down along the way that I think might find useful later on.
Commitment stays fresh knowing that after each “overload” cycle, a rest period is coming up. With each new cycle, one builds off the strength of the previous cycle. A structured, thought out approach like this is fundamental to the achievement of a long-term goal. When one strings together multiple cycles of consistent periods of overloading (training, writing, painting, singing, digging ditches) you get results. The trick is having these clearly defined ‘beginnings’ and ‘ends’.
So, as we approach the end of one year, and a new one of endless possibilities around the corner, lets not take a cynical approach to our resolutions, but rather, a calculated one, and map out clearly defined “beginnings and ends” with baked-in recoveries throughout the year to achieve our resolutions. Make the goal(s) very manageable to start. For me that means if it’s to run more – I might add one extra short run a week. If it’s to write more, I’ll hold myself accountable to put aside thirty minutes a day “write.” That’s it. Doesn’t make a difference how much I actually get down, my goal is simply making the time to put myself in position to get something. Happy hunting in the New Years!