I find it refreshing to think of a slip-up as just another chance to take responsibility for my choices. Beating myself up about it won’t help, and blaming others or certain situations is very unproductive. Setbacks are going to happen to everyone. I often think of an athlete that I knew who had suffered a severe back injury. Did she just give up on her exercise program and switch over to a diet of soda and snack cakes? She did not – she instead spent a lot of time thinking of creative ways to work around her impediment. If anything, she stepped it up. I can overcome a bad mood, a week of rainy weather, or a stressful day at work and still try to reach my wellness goals despite these minor obstacles.
It helps to think of your goals flexibly. If your goal is to exercise every day, but you feel unmotivated or tired, just try to move for 15 minutes or take as many steps as you can throughout the day. If you’re doing more or better than what you would have done before committing to a goal, it counts! If you’re trying to avoid added sugar, but you slip up and have a slice of cake at work, immediately recommit to your goal and eat an extra-healthy dinner. Think of all of the times you have exerted your willpower to consume less added sugar. Look at it as a journey and get back on the road. The importance of seeing the big picture explains why habit trackers are so popular – when you look back and see all of the times you were successful, you’ll want to keep your winning streak going.
Sometimes all you need is a shot of double-strength motivation. Focus on what made you decide to initiate a change in the first place. For example, perhaps you decided to start a mindfulness practice when you were diagnosed with hypertension, or maybe you chose to lose weight after realizing that it had lessened your enjoyment of a long-anticipated vacation. Hone in on that feeling – write it down if necessary. Remembering why you want to change is key – it’s why some people write their reasons and motivations on post-it notes and others hang “before” photos on their refrigerators.
The idea is that you will never be perfect, but you can aim to be perfect 80% of the time. The more often you make good choices, the higher your self-esteem will be, and the more likely you’ll be motivated to strive for your best every day. Revel in how you feel when you’ve accomplished something – the pride or confidence that radiates from you when you feel successful and empowered is addictive if you are mindful of it.
Try to understand what caused you to slip-up so that you can avoid that scenario from occurring again. What will you do in the future if the same situation occurs? Once you’ve acknowledged that you got off track and you’ve brainstormed ways to prevent it from happening again – let it go. Obsessing and ruminating will only hold up your progress. Imagine putting your slip-up into a balloon and releasing it into the sky. Every day is an opportunity for a fresh start.