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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Challenge Accepted

Elizabeth Veronis
MSN Class of 2019

(1/2016) So, you want to lose 18 pounds, nail down your jump shot, drop a coin in the Trevi Fountain and pay off your Christmas credit card debt Ė all by the first of the year. I am rooting for you, buddy. Thatís because I am on team New Yearís Resolutions. I know the odds are against us. I donít care. I shall shout my resolve to the rafters. I will double down when the going gets tough. Like Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.

Survive what, exactly? For most of January, that would be the parking lot at my health club or the line at the elliptical. Research has shown that just about 50 percent of us participate in the long tradition of setting goals at the New Year. The most common involve losing weight. All over America, the bloated masses will descend upon fitness clubs with a steely resolve to shed excess pounds. These newcomers are the bane of true gym rats, who resent their presence. They neednít worry. Statistically speaking, they will soon have the run of the place. In fact, by February, 25 percent of resolution-setters have given up. And it gets worse as the year goes on. In fact, just eight percent of people say they actually achieve their resolutions. But I donít think thatís any reason not to make them.

Like most athletes, I am a committed goal setter. Iíve got short-term, long-term, and downright fantastical goals. I visualize ascending the winnerís stand. I block out negative thoughts. I write down all the steps necessary to achieve even the smallest of milestones. Why do I bother? Because study after study has proven that goal setting increases both motivation and achievement.

There is another trick to dramatically improving the odds of keeping a goal: just share it with someone. Apparently, voicing our hopes and dreams help make them so. I learned that from Oprah Winfrey. She is a big fan of resolutions, who looks upon the New Year as "another chance for us to get it right.íí

The optimist in me concurs. The New Year should be viewed as a chance to wipe clean the slate, to eliminate the clutter that drags us down. Frequently, the worst form of clutter is mental. Doubt creeps in. But we have to be resilient enough and disciplined enough to power through. Sometimes that means asking for a side of kale instead of French fries. Other times that means rolling out of bed instead of rolling over.

Experts agree that it is important to set realistic, specific, and measurable resolutions. Face it. You arenít going to become fluent in Spanish just by ordering Rosetta Stone. But if you log effort every day you probably can order some pico de gallo by Cinco de Mayo. Actually, that reminds me of the importance of celebrating even small successes. High fives all around, because rewarding yourself on an incremental basis can keep you on the right track. And if you happen to stumble along the way, just start over. There is nothing easy about building new habits and backsliding should be expected.

My track record for achieving goals is probably less than 1 percent. But, just as in baseball, thatís not a bad average. I didnít start dating Harry Styles this year, but I got floor seats to a One Direction concert. I didnít win a state championship in basketball, but my team did come in second. We made the run to the finals through a combination of heart, a little luck, and the fundamentals that were beaten into us one drill at a time.

I learned the importance of finishing strong from Jim Rohn, the motivational speaker who pretty much invented the field of personal development. He was fond of saying that "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.íí Few people want to hear that, but, sadly, itís true. There is simply no substitute for practice, no secret short cut to getting better. Like jailhouse felons, we only get credit for time served. Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz summed it up this way: "Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off theyíre making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And thatís the difference.íí

That may sound a bit harsh, but Lou is ultimately right. We all fall victim to self-defeating habits. We make excuses, blame others, and give up. We postpone, self-sabotage, and whine about the fact that nothing has changed. Thatís sad. Every year, we should strive to be better than we were the year before. We all have a slightly different notion of what "betteríí means. A better version of me would be more politically involved and more grateful to the people who support me. So, I intend to register to vote and to read a daily news feed to keep current on the issues. My personal favorite is a website called www.theskimm.com. Itís slightly cynical, mercifully brief, and filled with hilarious takes on the top stories of the day.

To demonstrate my gratitude, I am going to do something my sister did last year. For one full month, she wrote a thank you note a dayĖ yes real snail mail Ė to someone who had made a difference in her life. She wound up getting lots of mail in return, from people who were touched by such a small, yet meaningful gesture.

These wonít be my only resolutions. New Yearís is just one day on the calendar and I will set and re-set goals throughout the year. I probably wonít succeed at them all. But thatís not going to stop me. I am fully on board. Itís crunch time, kids. And Iíve got just two words for all you haters: Challenge accepted.

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