How are your New Year’s resolutions going?
Are you still motivated enough to pursue your goals, or has the excitement evaporated, and you’re ready to throw in the towel (if you haven’t already)?
If you’re going off track, don’t get discouraged. Adopting new, healthy habits takes a lot more than just willpower. It takes time, dedication, and perseverance. Think of it as a skill to hone. Just like you can’t become a violin virtuoso in one month, you can’t go from a fast-food diet to a healthy one in just a few weeks.
Of course, you’ll relapse. The key is to learn how to cope with that, so you can emerge stronger from the experience, and more determined than ever to reach your goals. Here’s how:
1. Stop and feel the hurt
Relapsing sucks. It makes us feel like failures. We get angry at ourselves. Frustrated with our weakness. Disappointed with our lack of willpower. Tired of making the same mistakes over and over again.
It hurts. So, we try to ignore it. Forget about it. Get on with our lives. But, deep down, we know it’s not working. Running away from our feelings isn’t a healthy way of coping with them. Instead, acknowledge them. Let them run their course. Yes,you’ll feel like crap for a while. But, you’ll feel much stronger afterwards.
2. Be Kind To Yourself
If your best friend confessed that she’s struggling to switch to a healthier diet, and she gave in and ate a slice of cake the night before, you wouldn’t yell at her and call her a total failure, would you? Nope, you’ll reassure her that a relapse is normal, and gently encourage her to get back on track.
Be as compassionate to yourself as you would be to your friend. You’re human, too, and human beings make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. Give yourself some love and a virtual (or real!) hug. You deserve it.
3. Remember why
When you feel like straying, remember why you decided to take up this new habit in the first place. Is it because you haven’t been feeling 100% lately and want to get healthier? Is it because you want to nourish yourself? Help others? Be more productive so you have more time for what really matters? Get clear on why you’re doing something. It’ll help you get back on track (and not stray again).
4. Take (a small) action
So, now you remember your why, you’re all excited again? Great, but don’t overdo it. Just take one small step. For example, if you’d like to eat healthier, start by eating one apple, rather than a slice of cake, during your break. Or, if you’d like to start exercising, go for a 20 minutes’ walk around the neighbourhood. Find something easy, and do it. And then, focus on the next small step. Little by little, you’ll get there.
5. Don’t dwell on past mistakes
All your mistakes and relapses… they don’t exist anymore. They’re in the past. Leave them there. Let go of them and start focusing on your next step. What small action can you take right now to get closer to your goal? Do it, and experience it. In this moment, this action is not difficult. In this moment, you’re doing ok. Don’t ruin your progress by dwelling on what went wrong in the past. That doesn’t matter anymore.
6. Treat it as feedback
Often, we think that a relapse is a sign of weakness. It’s not. It’s a sign you’re taking the wrong approach. A common mistake is trying to do too much too soon. If you are a couch potato, starting by running 10 miles every day is simply not something you’ll be able to do. But going for a walk every day? Totally doable. Walk a bit more every day, and pretty soon, you’ll be able to put your running shoes on. So, next time you relapse, think about what tweaks you can make to your plan and lifestyle to make your goals easier to achieve.
Relapses are just a normal part of the learning process. I hope these tips will help you turn them into a positive experience that will make it easier to build new habits and reach your goals.
Here’s to our best year ever!