We’ve all been there: you start a new routine or habit, you’ve stuck to your plan for a few days and have some momentum going, and then – you slip up and miss a day.
How do you make sure that the inevitable slip up doesn’t become a complete derailment landing you right back into the way of life that wasn’t serving you very well in the first place?
I’ll teach you 3 proven approaches to getting back on track after slipping up and back to the new behavior you want more of in your life.
First, it’s important to realize that everyone gets off track at some point. It’s not your personal failing as much as it’s human nature and to be expected. Thinking you’ll adhere perfectly to a new – or even established – routine is unrealistic and unsupported by life experience and lots of behavioral psych research.
So, it’s not if but when you’ll have a stumble.
But what keeps a stumble from becoming a wipeout fall? Why do some people get derailed by a slip-up and others continue on their positive new path?
It turns out, you can learn how to ensure a temporary slip doesn’t result in a permanent fall.
Let’s use exercise as an example. (But, these tips apply to any new behavior, routine or habit that you might want more of in your life.)
1. Plan for your inevitable slip-ups
Waiting until you slip to figure out what you’ll about it will send you right down the slippery slope to permanent derailment.
I have two rules of thumb when it comes to creating a plan for when I slip:
Reduce the scope, stick to the schedule: If you can’t do everything you want to do when you want to do it, do a smaller version within whatever time constraints you have.
Never miss twice: When you miss one day, resolve that no matter what, you’ll do some version of the habit the next day so that you keep the habit alive. It’s critical to get right back on the horse as soon as you can.
So let’s take our exercise routine as an example. My plan could be: If I’m supposed to exercise for an hour today and something comes up making it so that I can’t do it, I’ll do 20 push-ups and sit-ups before I go to bed tonight.
2. Be aware of your mindset
Guest of the show and renowned behavior change expert BJ Fogg says:
“People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad. So feeling bad about ourselves when we slip does not help.”
I work with my private coaching clients all the time on their mindset when the inevitable miss happens. It’s important not to attach a ton of meaning to falling off track – just get back to it. The more we beat ourselves up for falling off track the harder it makes it to get back on track.
When we slip, it’s very common for our minds to create a whole narrative about how we’re the type of person who never keeps up with an exercise routine. Remember, everyone misses. It is not just you and some personal failing you have. It is human nature and it is inevitable.
As John Norcross (upcoming guest on the show) in his book, Changeology, puts it:
“Condemn the behavior, not the person. A slip is not a fall.
If you believe a slip will lead to a relapse, it probably will. If you believe a slip is a natural reminder to recommit, that’s what you’ll do.
You control your mind, and your mind controls the outcome of a slip…Think of a slip literally: you did not fall, you caught yourself first.
Avoid feeling guilty or depressed because of a single exception.
Go positive. Focus on what you have already accomplished, not the exception of a slip. You’ve succeeded 99 percent of the time since you committed to your goal. Are you really going to allow the 1 percent to determine how you proceed? Think big picture. The path to relapse is filled with potholes of pessimism and despair.”
3. Reflect on your slip-ups and learn from them
You will set yourself up to succeed if you structure your environment and lifestyle to support your desired habit or routine. And this is not a “set it and forget it” type of plan. It is fluid. It will change and improve based on what you learn as you go.
When you have a slip-up, take a moment to reflect on what happened. Here’s how John Norcross puts it:
“Identify what you were thinking, what you were doing, what you were feeling, and whom you were with when you slipped…Your answers will overlap with your high-risk triggers [and underlying urges].
Unwrap the urge…Your strong urges…express needs and feelings. Take a few moments and reflect on your urges: What do they want? What feelings or images come to mind? Does a craving have a story or history to tell?”
Let’s say that upon reflection, you discover that if you plan to workout at 3 pm, that coincides with a mid-afternoon energy and will-power slump and too frequently you forgo a workout for a snack or a nap. It turns out what your body really seems to need at that time is a rest not a push so you move your workout to the morning and you just get up a bit earlier to make it happen.
Do you have a new habit, routine, lifestyle or behavior that you want help implementing – this time, ensuring that you sustain it over the long run?
If you can envision your life with this new structure in place and all the benefits it will give you – such as being present for your life in a meaningful way, embodying mindfulness to the benefit of not only you but those around you, or releasing your inner critic that holds you back from living your fullest, best life – but you just need some support and guidance to get there, I can help.
If you already know about the program and would like to book a free 30-minute coaching call with me to see if we might be a fit to work together to bring about the change in your life that you are looking for, click here.
There’s no pressure to sign up to work with me – if we’re not a fit to work together, I’ll wish you well, we’ll part as friends and at the very least I’ll offer you my perspective and ideas on your particular situation so you’ll have that to consider.