As human beings, we’re all on a semi-constant quest for self-improvement. We’re forever trying to form good, new habits that will enrich and improve our lives.
The problem is that we put so much pressure on ourselves when building these new habits that we often beat ourselves up for making simple mistakes, which leads to scrapping our plans entirely. However, these plans don’t have to be so rigid. There is a way to deal with minor setbacks without losing sight of your goals.
First things first: Accept that developing any sort of new habit is going to be difficult. You’re going to hit the wall every now and again. Approaching things differently from the beginning may help you avoid rendering this habit to the scrap heap with all the other things you said you were going to do but never followed through on.
The Streak Strategy
When you’re working on a new habit, there’s nothing quite like going on a hot streak. Everyone loves that feeling—day after day, ticking this thing off your to-do list and feeling a sense of accomplishment and ownership.
Whether it’s by using a physical calendar on your wall, an electronic calendar, or a phone app, you can easily create and monitor your own streak strategy. The habit-tracker app Productive is a great way to track your progress and hold yourself accountable.
But the real question here is this: How do you maintain your streak? Say you have a simple exercise goal of getting out for a walk every day. You’ve been killing it for a week.
One day, you have a morning meeting and can’t walk at your usual time. It would be so easy to let the rest of the day fly by and, just like that, your streak breaks.
If you really want to keep your streak alive, you’ve got to make this new habit one of your Non-Negotiables. Commit to doing it every single day, no matter what.
So you missed your morning walk. It’s not the end of the world. Do it at lunch, or, if your day really goes off the rails, take the kids or the dog for a walk after dinner. If you really want to keep that streak alive, you can find a way!
Create a Plan B
No matter how fired up you feel about a new habit, every now and then you’re bound to slip. That’s not the important bit of this, though. It matters so much more how you get back on track.
Try not to be so hard on yourself early on in the habit-forming process. When something is brand new to you, remember that you are basically an amateur. Just remind yourself that you’re not good enough to be disappointed yet.
I apply this to my life so much. Instead of getting frustrated with ourselves for not being good enough, we need to realize up front that we’re going to make mistakes.
When your new habit streak is compromised, instead of throwing in the towel and saying, “I knew this wouldn’t work,” pivot and amend your strategy to something like, “I’m never going to miss two days in a row.”
Things happen. You’re going to get sick. The kids are going to miss the bus. You’re going to have a last-minute meeting come up.
Something is going to happen, and your streak is going to break. But if your backup plan allows for some wiggle room, you won’t get as frustrated with yourself.
We often extend grace to others that we refuse to give to ourselves. Remember that when you’re implementing a new habit, things may not always work out the way you want. Rather than wallowing in the fear that your efforts are worthless or that you’re always failing or falling behind, build a contingency plan that will set you up for success no matter what life throws at you.
Until next time—go sell some stuff!