Our Experts, Your Health

How to get back on track if you’ve lost your way

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Ever tried to make a healthy lifestyle change or develop a new habit and found yourself derailed at some point along the way? You’re not alone! Forbes estimates that 80% of people abandon their New Year’s resolution by February. If you feel like any of your new habits or goals have been pushed to the wayside, here’s your reminder that it’s not too late to get back on track! Check out these 3 tips to get back on track sooner and get derailed less often in the future.

Adopt a new mindset

The way we view setbacks largely dictates the way we respond to setbacks. If you’ve experienced a setback and just chalked it up to not having enough willpower or not being disciplined enough, you’re much less likely to want to start back up again. If we view willpower or discipline as our downfall, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we will end up with the same result if we try to get back on track because these can feel like traits that we don’t have much control over. I want to offer a different way to look at setbacks as well as assure you that discipline and/or willpower are not preventing you from being successful. Even the most disciplined people in the world stray from the path to their goals from time to time.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% the way you react to it.” While I think this is mostly true, the way we react starts with the way we viewed the situation BEFORE anything happened. For example, if I view a setback as a personal failure, chances are I am going to be overly critical of myself when a setback happens. On the other hand, If I view a setback as an indicator that some part of my plan isn’t working, I am much more likely to focus my attention on the changes I can make to avoid this same issue in the future. The truth of the matter is that developing new habits is a skill, and like all skills, we get better with practice. A setback is simply a chance to practice the skill of getting back on track!

Take the first step

Typically, when we set resolutions or try to adopt a healthier lifestyle, we attempt to develop multiple new habits all at once. Similarly, when we lose our way on the path to our goals, we tend to drop all the new habits all at once. If your internal dialogue is anything like mine, we tend to justify it by saying something like, “what’s the point of going to the gym if I can’t stick to my dietary changes anyway?” Imagine if you applied this same logic to other areas of your life – “What’s the point of brushing my teeth if I keep forgetting to floss?” or “what’s the point of doing my homework if I keep neglecting to study for the tests?” For some reason we selectively apply this logic in our lives.

If you are experiencing a waning of your motivation or adherence to the goals you set, my advice is to pick up at least one of the new habits you were attempting to develop and focus your efforts on that. If going to the gym is much more enjoyable for you than preparing meals for the week, start with getting back to the gym. Eventually, going to the gym will become part of your normal routine, and you can begin to focus your efforts on preparing meals.

Share your wins AND losses

It is human nature to be filled with pride when we achieve something we set out to do and to be filled with shame or guilt if we come up short. It’s the reason we see way more social media posts highlighting the handful of success stories than we do about the 80% of people who abandoned their resolution by February. This also makes it exceedingly difficult to discuss the trying times with a friend or loved one. If you’ve fallen off the wagon and plan to take steps to get back on, I encourage you to share that with someone close to you. Saying your intentions out loud can be scary, especially if you feel that you’ve already failed once, but sharing your experience can be a powerful tool to help you get back on – or even stay on track. By allowing others to participate in your journey, you add new avenues of accountability, and you can benefit from the more objective 3rd party perspectives of your friends and family. Often, we are too close to our own situation to remain perfectly objective (remember the comparison of flossing to dietary changes from above?), so sharing our experience with others can help keep us grounded.

Sharing your journey with others is a great tool for developing new habits, but this recommendation comes with a warning label – not everything your friends and family choose to say about your journey will be helpful. Chances are you will have someone in your life telling you that you’re fine just the way you are, and you don’t need to make any changes. And while it’s true that you are great just the way you are, this type of advice is not typically helpful when trying to develop new habits. It will be up to you to identify the people in your life that will be helpful on your journey and the ones that may hold you back, and then gravitate towards the more helpful people. It’s also important to realize that your less helpful friends and family members probably have the best intentions, but just don’t realize how their comments might be impacting you.

You’ve got this

Whether you’re someone who is going strong with your goals or you’re someone who is struggling a bit more, keep these tips in mind to help you stay on track more consistently or get back on track quicker. Setbacks and slip-ups are all part of the process when developing new habits. Acknowledging that and having the tools to deal with it will go a long way in helping you to sustain your new, healthy habits for a long time to come!

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