Wednesday July, 4, 2018 By: Dina Al-Mahdy
Have you recently lost your edge? Do you want to get back on track right now?
We’ve all been there…We all follow our diet religiously for a week and then break it with a weekend binge. We commit to working out more, hit the gym for two days, and then struggle to get off the couch after a long day of work. We set a vision for our career and get excited by the possibilities, only to get dragged down in everyday responsibilities and not return to our dreams until months later.
I’ve been there too, but as time rolls on I’m beginning to realize something important:
These little hindrances don’t make us a failure, they make us human! The most successful people in the world slip up on their habits too. What separates them isn’t their willpower or motivation, it’s their ability to get back on track quickly.
Anticipating those backward steps can make all the difference in the world. So let’s develop together a plan for getting back on track and recommit to your routine as quickly as possible. There will always be instances when following your regular routine is basically impossible. You don’t need superhuman willpower, you just need strategies that can pull you back on track. Habit formation hinges on your ability to bounce back.
Before we talk about how to get started, though, I wanted to let you know I researched and compiled scientific-based ways to stick to good habits and to stop procrastinating.
With that said, here are steps that you can use to get back on track right now after losing your edge:
1. Schedule Your Habits into Your Life:
Give your habits a specific space in your life. There are two main options for making this happen…
Option 2: Tie It to Your Current Behavior:
Not all of your habits will fit a specific time frame, but they all should have a trigger that acts as a reminder to do them.
Want to write or read? Everyday after having your breakfast. Same order, same way, every time.
Want to be happier? Every time you stop at a red light, tell yourself one thing you’re grateful for. The red light is the reminder. Same trigger, same sequence, every time.
Soon is not a time and some is not a number. When and where, exactly, are you going to do this? You might forget once, but what system do you have in place to automatically remind you the next time?
The bottom line is this: it might be nice to tell yourself that you’re going to change, but getting specific makes it real and gives you a reason and a reminder to get back on track whenever you slip up.
Option 1: Mark It on Your Calendar:
Want to get back on track with your writing schedule? 9am on Monday morning. Sit in your chair. Hands on keyboard. That’s when this is happening.
Want to exercise? Give yourself a time and place that it needs to happen. 6pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
2. Stick to Your Schedule, Even in Small Ways:
It’s not the individual impact of missing your schedule that’s a big deal. It’s the cumulative impact of never getting back on track. If you miss one workout, you don’t suddenly feel more out of shape than you were before.
For that reason, it’s critical to stick to your schedule, even if it’s only in a very small way.
Don’t have enough time to do a full workout? Just squat.
Don’t have enough time to write an article? Write a paragraph.
Don’t have enough time to do yoga? Take ten seconds to meditate and breathe.
Don’t have enough time to go on vacation? Give yourself a mini–break and drive allover your city.
Individually, these behaviors seem pretty insignificant. But it’s not the individual impact that makes a difference. It’s the cumulative impact of always sticking to your schedule that will carry you to long–term success.
Find a way to stick to the schedule, no matter how small it is.
3. Focus on What You Can Work with:
We waste so much time focusing on what is withheld from us.
This is especially true after we slip up and get off track from our goals. Anytime we don’t do the things we want to do, like starting a business, eating healthy, or going to the gym, we come up with excuses, like “I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have the right contacts. I don’t have enough experience. I need to learn more. I’m not sure what to do.”
Here’s what I want you to think instead: “I can work with this.”
Because you can. The truth is that most of us start in the same place where we have no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. Yet some people (the winners) choose to get started anyway.
I know it’s not easy, but I promise you that your life will be better if you choose to feel uncomfortable and make progress, rather than complain and make excuses. Shift your focus from what is withheld from you to what is available to you.
It’s rare that your circumstances prevent you from making any progress. You might not like where you have to start. Your progress might be slow and unattractive. But you can work with this.
4. Just Because It’s Not the Optimal Schedule, Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Beneficial:
It’s so easy to get hung up on doing things the best way and end up preventing yourself from doing them at all.
Here’s an example…Is eating clean two or three days per week better than not eating clean at all?
Yes, I believe it is.
In fact, eating healthy one day per week is better than none at all. Make that your goal to start: eat clean every Monday.
Just because you can’t stick to the optimal schedule, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick to it at all. Good habits are built gradually. Start slow, live your life, and get better along the way. Progress is a spectrum, not just a specific schedule.
The optimal strategies will make the last 10% of difference. Meanwhile, 90% of our results will hinge on us simply sticking to the basics: So don’t miss workouts, eat real food, do the most important thing first each day. Master the fundamentals now. You can optimize the details later.
5. Design Your Environment for Success:
If you think that you need more motivation or more willpower to stick to your goals, then I have good news. You don’t.
Motivation is a fickle beast. Some days you feel inspired. Some days you don’t. If you want consistent change the last thing you want to rely on is something inconsistent.
A great way to overcome this hurdle and get back on track is to design your environment for success.
Most of us know that the people surrounding us influence our behaviors either in a positive way or a negative one. But the items surrounding us have an impact as well. The signs we see, the notes that are on our desks at work, the pictures hanging on our walls at home… these are all pieces of our environment that can trigger us to take different actions.
When I wanted to start writing consistently, one of the most useful changes I made was taking the notebook out of the drawer and keeping it next to me on the counter. It sounds like a silly thing to focus on, but seeing the notebook every day meant that I didn’t have to remember to pull it out of the drawer.
With this simple environment change, I made it easy to stick to my new habit of writing and I didn’t need more motivation or willpower or a reminder on my phone or a sticky note on the mirror.
6. Care and Prioritize:
It sounds so simple, but make sure that the habits that you’re trying to stick to are actually important to you.
Sometimes forgetting our habits is a sign that it’s not that important to us. Most of the time this isn’t true, but it happens often enough that I want to mention it.
It’s remarkable how much time people spend chasing things that they don’t really care about. Then, when they don’t achieve them, they beat themselves up and feel like a failure for not achieving something that wasn’t important to them all along.
What I want you to do is: Pick a habit that you care about and would like to nourish. You only have so much energy to put towards the next 24 hours. If it really matters to you, then you’ll find a way to make it work.
I know that the change can be hard, and so is recommitting to our daily routine and healthy habits. Remember that it is hard, but not impossible!
Photos credit to Dina Al-Mahdy. To view her writings and photographs, visit Dina Al_Mahdy’s website here
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