Keep it up: How to maintain momentum in the new year

We tend to hit the ground running with all our goals, only to stagger—how can we actually stick to them?

This year, my roommate and I decided to get a headstart on goal-setting. In November, we pulled out the whiteboard and boldly filled it with countless goals, all with the intention of “getting our life together.” In retrospect, many (if not all) were pretty unachievable. My personal favourite: our promise to climb Mount Royal five times per week. Yeah, right. 

I think we’re all familiar with this cycle. The new year is synonymous with a fresh start, a fact that’s almost too cliché to write about: gym memberships, new diets and promises to break bad habits transform into February failures. The shooting stars turn out to be meteors and burn up quicker than they appeared. This phenomenon isn’t just true with the new year; it also applies to new beginnings at school (hello, winter semester). So where does all our initial enthusiasm go, and can we reclaim this energy to actually accomplish our goals? 

First off, it’s important to understand why we lose momentum. When it comes to resolutions, the most obvious reason is that we simply expect too much of ourselves. This can be explained by a phenomenon called the “empathy gap.” The Decision Lab explains that this is the “tendency to underestimate the influence of varying mental states on our own behavior and make decisions that only satisfy our current emotion, feeling, or state of being.” So when we made our Mount Royal resolution, we were crazed by enthusiastic energy and forgot how it actually feels to be tired. 

To carry through on your promises, you need to be realistic with yourself. It’s always tempting to imagine ourselves as super disciplined, high-achieving people, but that’s often a bit of a stretch. As busy students with countless external stress factors, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that time and motivation are difficult to come by. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals, rather that we should consider how our goals actually fit into real life. Start small and make an attainable plan. Keep yourself accountable by setting small milestones and keeping track of achievements. Gradually (and with great patience), these will build and snowball. 

When it comes to the new semester, the same principle applies. I start every semester with the idea that I’ll be an absolute academic weapon, doing all my required readings and completing every project in advance. Instead of setting such vague, unrealistic goals, I’ll aim to stretch this enthusiasm out and actually make a plan for myself. Maybe I’ll aim to complete “most” of my readings, schedule my time day by day, and see where I can go from there. 

In case you were wondering: since November, we have climbed Mount Royal a grand total of zero times. Maybe we could choose a hill instead, or reduce our goal down to one time per week. Or maybe choose a new goal entirely. Here’s the funny thing, though—with all this time I’ve spent thinking about how I haven’t climbed the mountain, I could have just gone and climbed it by now.


The impacts of social media on training

Social media is changing the way athletes approach their training

The permeation of social media into mainstream culture over the years has produced innovative opportunities that are unique to the 21st century.

In sports, this notion was perhaps best epitomized at the turn of the decade when internet personality Jake Paul’s second professional boxing bout against former National Basketball Association (NBA) guard and three-time Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson served as the co-main event, on a fight card headlined by boxing legends Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson.

In September 2013, Paul gained attention and fame through posting videos on Vine, amassing over five million followers and two billion views on the app, which has since been discontinued. After Vine, Paul turned that fame into fortune by expanding his social media exposure across different internet platforms, and has since dabbled in acting, rapping, and boxing.

For better or worse, the influence and power that comes with social media fame is well documented. When it comes to fitness and health, however, social media has its merits and shortcomings that come hand-in-hand.

At its core, fitness models and online trainers will share their workouts and personal tips online to inspire their audiences. In doing so, influencers are also promoting their respective sports and encouraging others to follow them by accentuating their content for all skill levels. A multitude of people credit social media and its influencers as the catalyst to their unique and fruitful fitness experience.

The primary reason for social media’s evolution in society has always been its convenience. Not only is content and entertainment readily available, it is accessible at a moment’s notice, which bodes well for fitness enthusiasts. Inquiries about methodology, equipment, training routines, and more can be solved within minutes so long as one possesses a device with internet connection.

The fitness industry has wholly embraced social media as a powerful tool to advertise sports. In the past, aspiring athletes could attend training camps and classes that were incredibly insightful, but strictly scheduled, selective, and generally in-person. The concept exists today, but continues to struggle in catering to all demographics. Beginners who are genuinely passionate but self-conscious due to their skill level or body image, are most notably cast aside in these instances.

Nowadays, support groups can be accessed on social media for athletes of all expertise levels and circumstances. These online forums act as communities where members can share their experiences and feedback, post special stories, and make new friends.

Unlike a scheduled traditional class, workouts can typically be performed autonomously with resources and information being made available online. People are more willing than ever to experiment in activities well beyond their comfort zone with the removed fear of embarrassment and potential self-consciousness that comes with in-person gatherings.

However, information from social media must be absorbed with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, fitness influencers have a platform and audience that can overshadow the fact that they may not be professionals in their field. This often leads to the propagation of fitness guidelines that are largely subjective and misleading. A bodybuilder on Instagram might credit an overly extravagant exercise for developing his physique and claim it as an essential exercise for all beginners, but gloss over important intricacies that can make the activity dangerous if one is unaware.

In addition, while images and videos on these platforms are generally meant to inspire the masses, it can have an opposite effect on some individuals. Fitness on social media offers a constant comparison to others while the images conveyed are meticulously chosen in order to optimize appearance. As a result, most posts selectively highlight success and cast aside failure.

Anyone that has partaken in sports knows that failure is an important part of the process, but a beginner who is seeking approval and understanding may not realize that concept while browsing influencer feeds and subsequently lose enthusiasm for the sport.

The accessibility of online platforms can also negatively impact physical activity. The most efficient workouts are those in which the athlete is fully immersed in the activity and removed from distractions. When people take time out of a workout to update their socials or post online, it has an undesirable effect on the competence of the training regimen. Time that could be allocated to further improve technique, breathing, and mental fortitude is instead devoted to the web that adds up quickly over the course of a workout.

In short, social networks are captivating tools that are full of fitness resources. Understanding and avoiding the traps while being honest with oneself with regards to training will unlock the full potential of the modern-day encyclopedia.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin

Student Life

Skip zero days to accomplish your goals

A few years ago, I was browsing reddit and stumbled upon an interesting concept called “no more zero days” left as a comment on a thread by user ryans01. Applying this concept to my life has changed it tremendously, and has put me on a stronger path to achieving my goals

A zero day is when you do nothing that helps you get one step closer to reaching your goals. Avoiding a zero day could mean doing the smallest action; for example, doing a single push-up before bed even if you’re exhausted. You don’t have to go run a marathon right away––doing one push-up is still better than doing nothing and it can help you in your long term goal. Another example is writing a single sentence for that long essay you’ve been avoiding. You don’t have to go all-out and finish your essay in one day, but at least writing one sentence gets you closer to completing it.

Reaching goals can seem difficult. The trick is to divide them into smaller ones, assigning tasks to achieve them, and setting milestones to track your progress. The reason for this is that goals are much less intimidating when broken down into smaller achievable tasks, as explained in a Twigberry Studio article. This makes it easier to start, and starting sets you on a path to achieving those bigger goals. 

It is also important to write down the goal with a goal date, which increases our chances of sticking to them according to an article on Action for Happiness. The first step is to figure out what your goal is in a trackable way.

Let’s say you want to get fit by summer 2020. How can you write down that goal in a measurable sense? Maybe your goal is to lose 20 pounds in the next four months. Then break it down into smaller goals: lose five pounds per month, then break it down to 1.25 pounds per week. Your goal is no longer to lose 20 pounds, which could seem like an impossible task, but to lose 1.25 pounds every week. Now you have a way to track your progress in terms of milestones and see where you’re at in terms of your bigger goal. 

Finally, set tasks in order to achieve that goal which, if followed correctly, will lead you to your desired outcome. 

What I have found by applying this rule to my life is that sometimes I start off by just doing one small step, and I end up doing a lot more. For example, I start off by doing one push-up, but then I just keep going until I can’t do anymore. Or, I will start off by writing one sentence of my essay, but then the ideas just start flowing and I end up writing a lot more. I have realized that the hardest part is simply starting. Once you get over that initial hurdle, you will find that everything else flows a lot easier. Not only does it get you closer to your goals, but it can also change the way you think. 

After consistently following the ‘no more zero days’ rule for a while, it becomes routine. Doing at least one productive thing per day becomes second nature and a zero day might feel like a day wasted. In essence, this rule can really make you into a more productive person. 

During his TedXTalk, “How to achieve your most ambitious goals,” Stephen Duneier talks about goals being achieved by taking our ambitious dreams and pursuing them by making a marginal adjustment to our routine. The first step is making that decision. He says that when you’re at home clicking through channels or scrolling through social media, make the decision to change your focus. He gives the example of putting down the remote/phone, picking up a book and reading one word: “If you read one word, you’ll read two words, three words, you’ll read a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, a book. You’ll read 10 books, 30 books, 50 books.” But it all starts with that first decision to change your focus.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Fight the FOMO with gratitude

Don’t let the fear of missing out ruin your chances at success

Have you ever had an itching need to attend a party at the cost of your schoolwork? It’s like you can’t help but wonder what exactly you would be missing out on. Your friends will probably have the time of their lives. They’ll probably run into Beyoncé and do the “Single Ladies” dance together, and you’ll miss out. Or at least that’s what your brain convinces you will happen. That’s FOMO knocking on your door.

For those who don’t know, FOMO is the online acronym for the “fear of missing out” on something. According to Boston Magazine, it was coined in 2000 by Dan Herman, a marketing strategist. An article in Time magazine highlights how FOMO is strong enough to make you pay less attention at school, and cunning enough to convince you that you’ve got your priorities all wrong. It’s a thought that strikes nearly every millennial to their core.

An article by Huffington Post presents studies showing how FOMO generates a sense of detachment and discontent in people, and that social media fuels these feelings. The fact is, many of us check our social media frequently—before sleeping, after waking up and even during meals. We just don’t want to miss out on anything.

Personally, I’ve come to realize that I experience FOMO when deciding what to eat. Sometimes, I’m scared to pick the wrong item from a menu—not because I’m worried it will taste bad, but because I don’t want to miss out on something better. Let’s be honest, most of us get nervous when thinking about missing out on a hot, cheesy burrito.

Truthfully, I believe the only way to overcome FOMO is to understand that focusing on your work moves you closer to achieving your goals. Temptations to postpone work will always be there—that will never change. What can change is your ability to say no to FOMO. But let’s be real: that’s easier said than done.

Let me paint you a picture. The day before a class quiz, I decided to spend the evening studying hard for it. I was happy to sacrifice my love of sleep—and then my phone rang (I probably should have kept it on silent). It was a friend calling to invite me to her house party that night. To make matters worse, I could hear “Single Ladies” playing in my head, tempting me to leave my room and go out. I started daydreaming: what if I meet a guy at the party and sparks fly? What if I miss out on all of that?

In that moment, I was convinced my decision to study was stupid because the quiz counted for just two per cent of my final mark. I started blaming my career choice for making me miss out on fun. Nonetheless, I’m proud to say that I chose to study that night. But it wasn’t easy for me to make that decision.

Two weeks later, here I am with a perfect score of 10 on the quiz. I realized that fulfilling your
goals brings greater happiness than the temporary pleasure of a party. Now, I am not saying you should only strive for long-term happiness. Rather, I believe moderation is the key.

According to an article in The New York Times, rewarding yourself for the hard work you’ve done is extremely valuable when battling FOMO. So, the next time you’re faced with FOMO, try to focus on your goals and pat yourself on the back when you do. When I was growing up, my parents used to get me a new pencil case whenever I got good grades. I am not that into pencil cases now, but I still like to reward myself when I work hard throughout the week.
I also remember to be grateful for the little things. According to the same Time article, research shows that feeling gratitude makes you a happier person, and it’s correlated to an objectively better life. Gratitude can also reduce someone’s FOMO, according to the same research. By practicing gratitude, I have stopped worrying about what events I might miss. It’s my weapon against FOMO.

Every time I am one step closer to my goal, I take a deep breath and thank myself for missing that party. I pay attention to how rewarding it is to work hard. To be honest, this practice is addictive. In fact, I now have a fear of missing out on thanking myself. Initially, it wasn’t easy for me, but cultivating strong, positive habits is always a work in progress. No pain, no gain. Right?

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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