New Year’s Resolutions and the Aggregation of Marginal Gains

resolution-british-cyclingIsn’t it time to get real about New Year’s Resolutions?

Research shows that around 80% of us fail to stick with our goals beyond the 31st of January.

In the media, we only hear about the mega success stories, the ones with the spectacular before and after photos. But many of the most powerful, sustainable achievements – in the sports world as well as the personal world – happen in incremental, subtle ways built up over several years, and sometimes decades.

So if you really want to improve, take a tip from the world’s top cycling team. Focus on realistic, achievable, non “hacky,” non “cheaty,” non “short-cutty” improvements.

At the British National Cycling Team it’s called “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains.” We’re talking about compiling a whole series of approximately 1 to 3% improvements that together can amount to a competition-beating margin of victory.

In cycling, that’s using helium in tires, shaving ounces off the weight of a water bottle, improving the mattresses the athletes sleep on, optimizing the aerodynamic properties of the helmets. You name it – improving anything and everything in tiny increments.

There are probably about a half dozen different things each of us can do to make for a more successful, happier, more satisfying 2017 when compared to 2016. The power of the Aggregation of Marginal Gains is that they don’t need to be big, scary, overwhelming changes. Most of us can’t make such huge shifts and have them stick over the long term.

And before you create an endless list of big and little things, keep in mind that almost nobody has as a New Year’s Resolution “sleep fewer hours.” Obviously there are only 24 hours in a day, so something’s got to give. If you’re going to spend more of doing “A” you’re going to need to spend less time doing “B” and/or “C,” etc.

Here are some NYR ideas I’m thinking about for myself:
– Spend 33% less time on social media; use that time to read high quality books
– Increase time spent in morning mindfulness practice by 7 minutes, and 2 minutes more in the afternoon
– Eat 25% more fresh vegetables daily; eat 25% fewer corn and potato chips
– Write out an intention for the following day by 7pm
– Spend 20% less time on every personal e-mail I send
– Get my hair cut every four weeks; reward myself with an espresso as motivation
– Proof-read every e-mail subject line I send one additional time

What New Year’s Resolution thoughts do you have?