In pursuing a goal, I get the best results when I focus on the habit that will make achieving the goal inevitable. For example, I have a goal to surf. In order to surf, I need to strengthen my core and improve my mobility (I’m currently recovering from a back injury). As such, the habits I am focused on are physical therapy, exercise, and stretching.
For my personal finance goal, the habit I am focused on is budgeting. For my business goal, the habit I’m focused on is daily prioritized planning.
With all that said, I often fall off the proverbial horse with all of these habits for a plethora of reasons such as vacation, the holidays, illness, and so on. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Other times, admittedly, I get in my own way.
So, what do you do when at first you don’t succeed? You simply get back on the horse. Here are my three tips to make it easy:
Getting back on the horse
- Count the wins, not the losses. While it can be discouraging to lose traction with the habits you’re working hard on, it’s important to remember that all is not lost. You’re not back down to ground zero. You’re never starting over.Even if you’ve only stuck to your habit for one month, one week, or even one day, count it as a win. Count it as experience you’ve gained and time you’ve logged towards your goal.
- Take it one day at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the idea of forever. Instead, think of it as one task at a time. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “I’m going to clear my inbox every day FOREVER,” say, “I’m going to clear my inbox today… and maybe tomorrow.”This goes for quitting bad habits too. It’s much easier to quit just for today.As with anything, there will be days when you don’t get it right. Just remember, all you have to do is work on “today” and you’ll eventually get there.
- Make it okay to fall off. If you are afraid of failing before you’ve even begun, it’s going to be a tough road. We don’t scream and yell at babies when they fall as they try to walk for the first time. We encourage them, give them a finger to hold and celebrate their wins.In fact, it’s no big deal when babies fall because they have big tushies to cushion the blow. When they fall back, they often look startled for a moment, laugh and try again.
When you fall off track (and you will because you’re human), don’t see yourself as falling flat on your face. See yourself as a baby learning to walk. Rollback on your tush and roll right back up. It’s okay to fall. It’s no big deal if it happens once, twice or hundreds of times.
All these strategies are designed to get you out of the “all or nothing” thinking that can actually make it harder to establish good habits and quit bad ones. Habits aren’t about perfection. It’s about the consistency of getting back on the horse.
Don’t leave your horse just standing there, jump back on!