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How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution

New Year's Resolutions

Shortly after the calendar turns to 2012, thousands of people around the globe will begin a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, exercise more, or spend more time with family. Poker players are doing the same thing. They’re making poker goals to grind a ton of poker, stop tilting, move up in stakes, make Supernova or Supernova Elite, win more money, study more, get a coach, post more hands, etc,.

Unfortunately, most people or poker players won’t see their grand declarations stick very long. We’ve all been there, myself included. A recent study showed that only 12 percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions achieved their goals.

The two important questions this article attempts to answer is:

  • Why do people fail to achieve their goals or resolutions?
  • What’s a better strategy to achieve them?

One of the most common reasons resolutions or goals fail, is that players forget they are not just trying to accomplish something new, they are also trying to eliminate an old habit. Let’s say you want to increase the amount of poker you’re playing. You decide you want to go from playing 25 hours per week, to 35. Increasing that isn’t just about adding 10 more hours (which by the way is 40 percent increase in capacity), it’s also about eliminating the things you would tend to do in that time. Not only are you trying to increase your ability to play more, you are also trying to stop yourself from browsing forums, watching TV, Skype chatting with friends, and quitting early to do other things.

Often the inspiration around a new goal can make it appear that it’s going to be easy for all these habits to disappear. They disappear in the short-term, because of that inspiration. But, once that early surge of inspiration wears off, the gravity of these patterns brings you back down to the reality that you have to fix them, otherwise your resolution becomes just another failed idea.

To help make 2012 a successful year, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to make it easier to accomplish your resolutions and goals. Many of the common missteps that derail your efforts are not too hard to fix with the right information.

1. Decide What You Want

A common problem in poker happens when players have too many goals. They start thinking about what they want to accomplish this year, or what bad habits to break from last year, and a lot comes to mind. It starts with wanting to play more, then playing more tables, making more money, and maybe go for Supernova Elite. Heck, why not study 10 more hours per week, play the WSOP Main Event, and move up several limits too!

This sounds good in theory, but trying to accomplish too much almost assures that you’ll accomplish very little. When you want too much, the mind is divided and you don’t have enough focus to accomplish the priorities. Essentially you’re multitasking and you can do many things OK, rather than a few really well. Narrowing your focus on your biggest goals is essential because it means you’re automatically going be less focused on things that don’t matter, and more focused on the stuff that really does.

Keep in mind too, if you do a few things really well this year — you’ll have greater potential to do even more next year.

2. Know Why You Want It

Most players focus the majority of their time on the “what” and leave the “why” as an afterthought. Knowing "why" is critical because it helps you clarify your goals and you can use it to get yourself back on track. Big goals are a challenge. Remembering why you want to achieve that goal is a great motivator to keep you working towards it, while avoiding distractions, being lazy, or totally bailing.

Take some time and figure out specifically the underlying reasons or motives for achieving your goals. These could be any number of things such as: fame, money, achievement, mastering a skill, the challenge, learning, or just for motivation. Once you have the list, write them next to your goals and review them regularly for a few weeks.

3. Plan How You Are Going To Accomplish It

Create a realistic plan around your goal by analyzing where you’re strong and where you’re weak. To have any chance of accomplishing this goal you have to know what you are and are not capable of. Take an honest look at your skill set and then develop a realistic plan for how you’ll achieve success.

Let’s say your goal is to take poker more seriously and for you that means playing 120 hours per month, studying 40 hours per month, scheduling your week, getting coaching, and of course improve your mental game. In order to reach that goal, you need to first know what you did last year. Even though you’re taking this year more seriously, looking at where you were strong and weak in each part of this goal establishes your baseline. Your baseline is how you evaluate progress and without it your just guessing.

On the one hand it may seem simple, but it’s not. Having unrealistic views of their current skill set is a major reason why people fail to accomplish their goals or resolutions.

4. Prepare For Obstacles

When first establishing a goal, the likelihood that you’ll succeed seems much easier in your mind than it will actually be in reality. In your mind, it can almost seem as though nothing can stop you. It’s as if you'll get there easily — until you’re faced with your first real challenge.

At some point in the year you’re going to face some kind of challenge. These setbacks have the potential to completely derail you, unless you’re prepared. That doesn’t mean you have to be prepared for every conceivable problem that might come along the way. Instead, just being ready for any problem means you’ll handle it far better than believing in the illusion that you’ll accomplish your goal without facing one.

The most common reason resolutions and goals fail is old habits. When you’re trying to reach a goal, or create new habits in poker or your life, old habits truly die hard. You don’t live in a vacuum. Your old ways of approaching poker are gone just because its 2012 and not in 2011. They don’t disappear just because the calendar has changed.

Before you get started on your journey, here are a few ways to tackle bumps in the road:

  • At the beginning of every day, read your goals and the reasons you want them.
  • Analyze the biggest problems that are likely to get in your way and develop a plan of attack for each.
  • Create a daily routine that you follow regularly, and especially when faced with tough times.
  • Think back to times in the past when you’ve succeeded at doing something difficult and write about how you did it.
  • Get help from others. It’s your battle, but having support from others can go a long way.
  • Put your head down and bear through it — remove additional distractions.
  • Take a break. If you’ve only been pushing hard, rest can be much needed.

5. Inspiration When You Fail

Being inspired is often the fuel that leads some people and players to achieve things greater than they could have imagined. As it relates to achieving your goals or your resolutions, inspiration is critical to keeping you on track when you hit bumps along the road. At times when your goals might be derailed, inspiration gets you back moving forward again.

Inspiration is an energy boost that can be tapped finding the things that remind you of why your working hard for you goals. It could be a movie, a song, a quote, a speech, a letter, a painting from your kid — anything really.

Inspiration comes from many places, some too random to predict. So put together a "greatest hits" of things that inspire you. It’s a compilation of sorts that you can go back to when you need a strong reminder why it’s worth it to keep fighting.

6. Tracking Progress

Only after you’ve accomplished your goal will you know precisely what it took to achieve them. That means, when you set your plan at the beginning you were making your best estimate or prediction about what it would take. Often you’re wrong even if you took a lot of time at the beginning to map out a plan. Missteps are inevitable, and often, it's only once you get into actually working towards your goal that you’re able to identify what wasn’t working. In other words, don’t get bogged down planning. If you’re tracking progress, it’ll be easy for you to adjust your plan so you can work efficiently towards your goal.

Tracking progress is how you are able to stop missteps early, so you aren’t completely derailed. By taking notes, daily, weekly, or at least monthly about your progress, you can find out quickly what’s working, what’s not, and what adjustments you need to make to stay on course. Plus, if you run into major trouble along the way, having this paper trail allows you to get back on track quickly.

Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way making 2012 a great year! Make it a year where you accomplish great things by working harder and smarter than ever before.

Jared Tendler, M.S. is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Mental Game of Poker, which you can purchase at He’s the mental game coach to over 200 poker players from around the world. Find out more about Jared on his website, and follow him on Twitter at @jaredtendler.

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