One of the most beloved and recognizable characters in American pop culture is Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. He’s energetic, enthusiastic, and has a true zest for life. In Walt Disney’s version of Winnie the Pooh, his personal anthem (which he’s more than happy to sing to anyone who asks what a “Tigger” is) includes the lines:
Their tops are made out of rubber Their bottoms are made out of springs! They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
Tigger’s defining characteristic is that he can bounce - from here to there, to everywhere - whether he’s sad, happy, or experiencing any other emotion. “I’m gonna bounce!” he’ll declare before setting off to bounce to his next adventure. Tigger inspired the main message the first Coach Tip Tuesday of the year:
Growth isn’t measured by how long we go without engaging in problematic or unhelpful behaviors. It’s measured in how effectively and quickly we are able to bounce back.
The Fresh Start Effect
Two days ago, we welcomed 2023. To coincide with that temporal transition, countless people around the world made resolutions, set intentions, or otherwise pledged to “do this, not that” in the new year. Why? The Fresh Start Effect is in full force, especially at the transition between years.
The Fresh Start Effect, a term which was coined in 2014 by researchers at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, describes the mental accounting periods generated in humans at the onset of new weeks, months, years, or seasons. Temporal landmarks such as these often cause people to broaden their view on their lives, and thus inspire them toward aspirational thoughts and behaviors. In other words, the sensation of something new mentally stimulates the desire for us to make big and broad “changes” to our lives.
When I work with athletes, I always encourage them to set goals and to be flexible when walking the path to those goals. To give themselves grace. To not be so hard on themselves. To work with their human psychology, not fight it. In essence, I’ve been telling them to channel their inner Tiggers and to be bouncy (even if I don’t use those exact words).
I don’t ever seek to be demotivating; I am seeking to be quite the opposite, really. I want athletes - and everyone - to be successful at any and all goals they set for themselves. Part of achieving that success is being realistic, especially when it comes to expectations. While a new year might be motivating and give the illusion of a “fresh start” when things can be radically different than they once were, it is often just that: an illusion. We need to be honest about where we are, what things in our life we have control over, and to be flexible in order to give ourselves the highest probability of success at reaching goals and milestones we set for ourselves. Sometimes this means we’re at a place where we can make big changes. Other times, small changes might be best. The significance of those changes isn’t diminished by their size if those changes are what work best for you.
The Bottom Line
As you start this new year and embark toward your future goals, don’t seek perfection. Perfection is not possible; it’s a myth. Accepting this is step number one in managing expectations. Along with that, it’s important to recognize that meaningful change doesn’t need to look “bigger” or “bolder” in order to be better. Finally, accept that you will not always be 100% in compliance with whatever behaviors you’re seeking to cultivate or engage in this year. This is very okay. If you have a period of time where you’re “off the bandwagon”, don’t ruminate on this and look back so much on the past that it distracts from the now.
Set goals that work for you where you are now. If you revert back to a previous habit or behavior that is no longer desired, don’t despair and become a victim of give-up-itis. Find a way to bounce back. (Sing “The Tigger Song” if it helps you or brings a smile to your face.) Take one step. Then take the next step. Over time, you’ll likely bounce back quickly and more effectively than you did when you disengaged from helpful behaviors in the past. And this - how quickly and effectively you do bounce back - is a good measure of growth and progress. So as you move forward into 2023, channel that Tigger deep inside of you and BOUNCE!
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.