It's mid-February. The Super Bowl came and went. So did your New Year's Resolution.
Don't even think about uttering the words "I'll try again next year". It's time to get back on the horse.
Here are 3 steps to getting back on track and meeting the goals you set for yourself.
GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
Before we dig into getting you back on track, I want to help reframe what a resolution is.
Resolutions are not magic. They are just goals set on a specific date. Frankly, I don't make New Year resolutions because I set and/or review goals regularly. It absolutely does not matter what day of the year you do this. In fact, if you were to only review your goals annually you'd probably end up with a disappointing amount of progress in your life.
This leads me to my next point: no one cares if you fell off the wagon. What matters is whether you get back on track.
STEP 1 - FORGIVENESS
You have to forgive yourself. Get rid of whatever guilt or disappointment you feel because you didn't meet a goal. It happens.
When it comes to starting an exercise habit, the average person fails and restarts 7 times before the habit takes root. For more complex goals like nutrition, sleep habits, stress management, it can take many more attempts!
Often, things take longer than you'd like. Go ahead and roll your eyes, I understand. As an especially impatient person myself, I feel your pain. In spite of our impatience, as long as we keep getting up and trying again we can't lose. ONE of your attempts will be the one that sticks and gets you everything you wanted. The only way to permanently fail is to quit.
Forgive yourself for the small failures too. You ate off your plan at a friend's party? Bummer. Oh well, let's get back on track with the next meal. See? Easy.
Don't let one poor meal lead to a full day of off-plan eating. That would be like hitting a pothole, then deciding that you may as well drive your car into the ditch. If that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is.
Realize that failures are going to be regular part of the process. When it happens (not if) shrug it off and get back to the plan.
STEP 2 - ANALYSIS
Here comes the part where you get to be habit formation Batman. Start thinking like a detective and assess WHY you didn't stay on plan. Whether you skipped a workout, ate an unplanned meal, stayed up too late playing XBox, or let your stress level control you - you have to understand why.
I'm not the first to tell you that most behavior is based on feelings. Our rational brain is often content to simply justify decisions our emotions have already made.
This means that to identify the root cause of undesired behaviors you have to dig deep and leave no stone unturned. Ask yourself questions and be suspicious of your motives.
How were you feeling when you decided to skip your workout? Why did you feel that way? What happened to alter your mood and your plan? Did you fail to prepare for your workout by not eating, sleeping, or bringing the right stuff (clothes, shoes, belt, water bottle, headphones, etc.)? Did someone make you feel guilty for spending time in the gym instead of with the people in your life?
Once you've found the root cause of the problem you have to decide how you need to feel next time in order to stick to your plan.
You decide you felt too tired to work out. You were tired because you hadn't eaten all day and didn't have any energy. You hadn't eaten all day because you didn't bring lunch to work. You didn't bring lunch because you never made it ahead of time. You didn't make it because you don't like cooking (I'm guilty of this one big time).
Solution: make lunch. Make a simple turkey and cheese sandwich (no cooking required) with some fruit. Eat it about an hour pre-workout. Now you'll be fed and energetic enough to at least show up to the gym. Once you're there, you'll most likely do your full workout.
Once you understand how you need to feel, you can move on to Step 3.
STEP 3 - RE-PLAN
You need to use the analysis information to update your plan for success. Doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different results was Einstein's definition of insanity. Let's avoid going insane.
The greatest lie we tell ourselves is "I'll just do better. This plan should work, I just need to be more disciplined." Sorry, but that's total crap. In real life, if your discipline failed you in a certain scenario, it will fail that scenario every time. You're not magic and you aren't hiding some secret iron will. You're a mere mortal, just like the rest of us.
People don't stick with habits out of will or discipline. They set up a system that doesn't allow failure. Use the trigger you identified in step 2 and build a routine that guarantees the success of that habit. Make it impossible (or at least really painful) to fail.
In a way, you're hatching a scheme, manipulating yourself into feeling the emotions necessary to stay on track.
JUST DON'T QUIT
Success in your goals boils down to whether or not you quit.
Let's be real with each other. You were never going to nail your resolution on the first try without any problems. No one ever has. Don't let some hokey annual tradition make you feel bad about the process of self-improvement. It takes work, trial-and-error, dedication, and patience to build better and better versions of yourself.
You will fail at improvement over and over again for the rest of your life, but each time you will fail a little better. Those improvements in failure are your growth, and isn't growth the whole point?
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