Personal goals matter and Andy Murray motivation has to be applauded

Andy Murray has been inspirational despite his Australian Open disappointment (Picture: Getty)

We really are back. There’s no legitimate reason to wish anyone a happy new year any more. The trees and the lights are long gone. You’ve got Zoom fatigue.

Well, get the celebration police on the phone. Happy new year Metro readers! I’m so pleased to see you and we all hope you’re still feeling some cheer from a few days off, however distant now.

The optimism of the new year always charms me – the human desire for order, played out in the conviction that an arbitrary timeframe will change things – resolutions will stick this year.

And why not? Round numbers are powerful. A graph of finishing times at any marathon will tell you that.

They group more densely around hour and half-hour marks, as people who have plugged away for 26.3 miles rouse themselves for three-and-a-half, four and five-hour deadlines as if lactic acid was just a phrase.

It’s obvious if you think about it – hardly anyone takes on a challenge as big as a marathon thinking, “Let’s just riff this, who knows when I’ll finish”.

If you’ve done it before you may try to improve your previous outing, which could live anywhere on the clock, but otherwise shooting for a clean four hours makes sense. It’s also why hardly anyone sets their morning alarm for 7.36am. Really it makes as much sense as 7.30. But does it?

Our Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was knocked out of the Australian Open in the first round this week. There were no tears this time, Tomas Martin Etcheverry’s comprehensive win leaving the three-time major winner confounded.

Murray was baffled by his ‘flat’ performance, so different from the five-set heroics of last year.

Marathon runners always have a target and set goals

Marathon runners always have a target and set goals (Picture: PA)

After his exit, the now-commonplace speculation about his imminent retirement followed, and reasonably so. It is now more than seven years since he won his last slam. The last time he made it beyond the third round at a major tournament was in 2017.

When I was a kid I venerated the live-fast-retire-young athletic career: Steffi Graf, Eric Cantona, Michael Jordan (the first time). That was the way to do it. Those exits were cause for celebration. Why hang around? Identify the peak, duck out when you’re just the other side of it. How depressing to keep coming back to the place of your famous triumphs and see you can’t quite do it, you’re just not that person any more.

The great Steffi Graf called time when she was at the top of her sport

The great Steffi Graf called time when she was at the top of her sport (Picture: Getty)

Except then I got older. I learned that the people living the best lives are those whose motivation is intrinsic: it comes from inside. What is fulfilling is the hunt for mastery. Reward can play a part too but mainly they are curious about the challenge, and want – corny as it sounds – to do their best.

Murray clearly didn’t enjoy Monday, but if he is curious about the game, wants to hone the player he is, learn new strategies and keep developing the sport he has played such a big role in – well, that is to be celebrated.

He will be remembered for becoming the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon and for his unprecedented Olympic double. But it is his commitment to keep ploughing on through the operations, the change in status and each new challenge that I really admire.

Psychology professor Richard Wiseman says 88 per cent of us fail to achieve our new year’s resolutions. I have my suspicions about the other 12 per cent, but if they exist I suspect Murray is one of them.

The secret of those who succeed is to keep it realistic, explains Wiseman. Make just a single resolution and be precise about how you’re going to get there. To that I would add the Murray principle – choose something that 
really interests you, and keep
at it, whether others are impressed or not.


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