So how are you doing with your week-and-a-half-old New Year’s resolutions? Hopefully, you’re aiming for something achievable, not to mention enjoyable. We also hope your commitment has not dwindled. But what if it has? Please don’t stress about it or heap on the self-criticism. If your friend had “slipped,” you’d be kind, forgiving, encouraging. You deserve the same. Don’t give up.
Of course, a big part of the problem is how difficult it is to change habits. After all, that’s why they’re habits — they’re responses that are deeply ingrained and automatic. Overcoming them is no small feat! As you work toward developing new habits so that you can achieve your new goals, it may be helpful to consider how you define and celebrate new milestones. For this, we look at a concept widely used in the athletic world — the Personal Record, or PR.
Janice — Let me tell you about my nephew, Bobby. Bobby is an elite runner who was recruited to run track at his college and who also got a master’s degree in sports management. He is now a successful running coach. But Bobby didn’t achieve all this success easily. His academic success was hard-won; and, like most athletes, he has had injuries and setbacks. He is one of the bravest people I know (and, in case you’re interested, he’s single!)
Bobby introduced me to the concept of the Personal Record (PR), also known as Personal Best (PB). It is a sports terms that refers to a person’s best performance. For athletes like himself, a PR is important to help them keep motivated and to strive for greater challenges so that they can be stronger, better, faster.
So what does this have to do with me? In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not an athlete. My own Personal Record is visiting my daughter in her fifth story walk-up apartment in Manhattan. But for me, the concept of Personal Record is compelling on so many levels beyond sports. I love the idea of competing only with myself if that’s what I choose to do. I don’t have to compare my appearance or intelligence or cooking to anyone else’s. I only have to work to get better at what’s important to me.
In terms of exercise, it’s just fine with me that someone else can climb 20 flights of stairs and hike up a mountain and lift small cars. Good for them — but it has nothing to do with me. I just want to do better for me. Having said that, I really do try to push myself to hike a little farther, walk up a hill a little faster, do a few more reps with my hand-weights. And when I do that, I have a great sense of satisfaction. To me, that’s what Personal Record is all about.
Jay — I have never considered athlete a part of my identity. When it came to running, it was never about winning — participating in and completing a half marathon were more than enough to me. However, while I was training, I strived to set new PR's — running a long distance just a second faster than the time before.
My PR's kept me motivated because I was competing against myself and nobody else. There’s always some way that other people can outperform you, and that can be discouraging when you’re just a normal person! However, I can always work harder to perform better than I did before. I loved the feedback of seeing my improvement, which meant that my training was paying off and I was making progress! I never cared if other people beat me, because the only thing I had control over was making progress in the “competition” against myself.
What’s so powerful about a PR is that, as Bobby puts it: “A personal record has the potential to take shame out of running or any other physically exertive activity that you might be scared to attempt otherwise. By finding a PR that you have self-defined, it becomes that much more tangible and manageable. You may never be able to run a 6-minute mile, but you sure as heck can make it 10 seconds longer running than last time you were getting some movement!”
As you continue to incorporate good habits in your daily routine, think about the last time you tried to make this commitment to yourself. Were you able to take 10-minute walks for five days before your interest waned? Okay then! That’s your PR — so this time aim for six days, and you’ve set a new PR and that’s worth celebrating.