Let’s suppose that a few weeks ago you had been doing really well. You had been getting enough sleep, waking up early, working out regularly, sticking to a diet, and hitting your professional goals. You felt great, and you had the energy and motivation to not only get through the day, but to overcome obstacles you encountered throughout it.
But, then it happened: you messed up. And now you’re finding yourself falling into your old habits.
Something set you back, so you got off track with your diet, exercise plan and the quality of your work has suffered.
And now you’re being hard on yourself, drowning in negative thoughts because you failed.
Most of us can relate to the scenario and have experienced similar situations. But, it IS possible to get back on track. Here are 8 effective ways to get back on track after a setback:
- Find the Underlying Cause
Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem in five minutes thinking about solutions.” A lot of self-help articles and books start you off with tactics to get back on track. And it’s not that there’s tactics won’t work, but they aren’t enough on their own. They don’t tackle the root of the problem. Start thinking about your emotional state, your thoughts and what was going on in your life when you got off track you likely to find that there are common triggers.
Some of these triggers might be, but are not limited to:
- Illness or injury
- Life changes
- A change in environment, such as moving, renovating or going on vacation
- Doing too much too quickly
- Frustration with a lack of progress
- Relationship issues
By identifying these triggers, you can better plan strategies around them. For instance, you find that you keep failing diets because you getting bored because you eat a lot of the same food, change the menu up.
This may seem pretty simplistic, but identifying the cause of the problem will help you to keep on track for the long-term.
- Make and Stick to a Schedule
Okay, this seems obvious, but hear me out. Are you more likely to stick to an exercise schedule that’s planned out, (e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 AM) or a vague idea like, “I’d like to start working out some time”?
Making blocks on your calendar for your habits helps to keep you on track. It also helps if you’re specific about what you’ll be doing, where and when.
And, while you’re scheduling in your habits, create buffer zones in your calendar in case you miss a scheduled activity. Missed that healthy snack at 11:30? No problem, you’ve got a backup scheduled at 3:30. This prevents you from being too hard on yourself if you DO fail, and creates a game plan to get you back on track.
- Work With Your Current Habits
It’s a lot easier to work around your current habits than it is to pull new ones out of thin air. Most of us tend to thrive on patterns and routines, anyway, so it’s just a matter of curbing them to meet our own needs.
Let’s say for instance that you’re in the habit of coming home from work, changing into comfortable clothes and then relaxing. You could instead come home from work, change into workout clothes, and then go for a jog.
This same strategy could be used for a lot of things. That nightly bowl of chips could be switched to a healthy snack. That elevator ride could be accomplished with stairs instead. That gray T-shirt that you wear every day could be a black one instead. Use your current routines and habits to remind yourself of the ones that you want to start and stick with.
- Keep Your Goals Simple
It’s really easy to try to take on too much too quickly. But often, it’s being overwhelmed by these unrealistic goals that discourages us and gets us off track. And, if you slipped up bad enough and got too far off into old habits and routines, it will take time to gradually build up to a routine that you can sustain.
If you’re trying to stay on track with a diet, concern yourself with something simple like portion size, not calorie counting and which foods to avoid. If you trying to write more, work on some journal pieces or focus on writing a few pages, as opposed to a novel.
The simpler your goals are, the easier they will be to achieve, and you’ll be more likely to stay on track.
- Don’t Worry About Perfection
We often want to wait for the perfect time to start something, or to find the perfect regimen before we start something. We tend to get into a mindset of “why bother starting it if I don’t start it with the best practices?”.
But, does it matter if you find the best methods to use if you’re not actually doing whatever it is that you want to do? If you trying to start routinely meditating, for instance, you COULD spend months researching techniques, or you could just do it.
As with most things in life, whatever habit you’re trying to develop will take practice. The only way to get practices to start doing it. Don’t worry about “doing it right”, just do it. Once you’ve done it for a while, you can develop your technique more. It’s a lot easier to change direction when you’re already moving, after all.
- Change Up Your Environment
Believe it or not, your immediate surroundings can either set you up for success or for failure. You can thoughtfully design your environment in order to help you change your habits, or you can design it poorly and watch as it leads to repeated failure.
If you’re trying to diet, but have tons of junk food around you, you’re more likely to binge. If you want to work out more, pack a gym bag and put it next to the door so that you can simply grab it and go. If you trying to go to sleep earlier or sleep more, start a routine an hour before sleep, turn off all the electronics in place a book next to your bed.
Slight changes to your environment can drastically up the chances that you will stay on track.
- Make Yourself Accountable
Part of the challenge of getting yourself back on track is the fact that you are not accountable to anyone else. There are two ways to tackle this problem: either get a support system, or find a way to make you accountable to yourself.
It’s pretty easy to get a support system. There are lots of online groups for nearly any hobby, habit or lifestyle you’re hoping to achieve. Your support system could also come in the form of family, friends or colleagues.
One of the easiest ways to keep yourself accountable to yourself start a journal. Keep track of what you’re doing, how often and how much. You should also keep track of your mood so that if you get off track, you will have a better chance of figuring out why.
- Try Something Different
If you’ve tried something the same way several times and keep failing, it might be time to try it a different way.
If a strict weight loss goal keeps you from actually taking steps to reach it, try working out or focusing on healthy eating instead. If you trying to wake up earlier, but find that your burned out after a few weeks of getting up at 5 AM, try getting up at 9 instead.
Sometimes taking a different approach is all we need to succeed.
You can always get back on track, no matter how late it is!
Everyone messes up, and we’ve all fallen short of our goals. No one is perfect. But, you can get back on track, as long as you’re committed to reaching your goals. Some days you’ll feel great about your progress, but not so much on others. But if you pick yourself up and get back on track, you’ll soon notice that your achieving goals that you never thought you would!