Once a very clean and healthy eater, you’ve forgotten what a vegetable tastes like.
Your plans to switch jobs, which you were once very excited about, have taken a back seat while you try to tell yourself that “things aren’t that bad” and maybe leaving isn’t such a good idea after all.
Or, maybe, it’s been so long since you’ve been to the gym that you totally missed the fact that your favorite (and most convenient) location has been closed for months.
Oops. That last one was an actual, real-life example.
They happen to all of us, and they happen for many different reasons. Sudden illness, loss, a broken relationship, a big move. Sometimes these things are very short-lived; other times they throw some long-term difficulties our way. Whenever things go sideways and our lives get derailed, we often also lose focus. Our goals or plans for the future all of a sudden don’t seem all that important.
Then, as some time goes by, you’re beginning to think about revisiting some of those once–very-important ideas, but somehow, you can’t find your way back.
What do you do?
Where and how do you start?
Is “starting over” even something you want to do?
HOW TO GET BACK ON TRACK: 7 STEPS TO FINDING MOTIVATION + REBUILDING HABITS
1. ASK YOURSELF THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
When you’re busy dealing with life, it’s very easy to start ignoring some things and eventually put them out of your mind. Maybe it’s the fact that you’ve given up on your passion; maybe you keep telling yourself that you’ll go back to that healthy lifestyle you liked so much, once things calm down a bit and you have more time. The longer you ignore and push those things away, the more and more difficult it will be to face them. Ultimately, this mindset will encourage quitting and giving up altogether.
Take a few minutes out of your day to sit down with a journal or a piece of paper and dig through some of those feelings and thoughts you keep pushing away.
Sometimes, the thing that’s stopping us from revisiting our goals is fear. Maybe you do realize that you’ve fallen behind but feel that starting over is just too much? Other times, we fall out of habits simply because they are no longer important to us. You won’t know the answer until you ask yourself some of those tough and important questions.
“How am I really feeling about this?”
“Is this truly important to me?”
“Am I okay with giving this up?”
“Will I be okay with quitting, or do I have a good reason to get back on track?”
Take your time with this and, most importantly, be honest with yourself.
2. FOCUS ON SMALL STEPS TO GET BACK ON TRACK
Looking at the “big picture” or thinking about the end result and everything you need to do to get there can be intimidating. If you spend too much time thinking about it, you will feel overwhelmed and potentially discouraged. Focus on those small steps and tasks that seem more realistic to you. What is something small that you can do today, or even right now, that will help you get a bit closer to your goals?
3. SCHEDULE A TIME TO PUT IN THE WORK
Having structure will be a big help in rebuilding your habits (or creating new ones). You can either schedule your new tasks/habits into your calendar (with tools like time-blocking) or, you can use a habit-stacking technique.
Creating a new schedule for rebuilding your habits is pretty self-explanatory. You go over your daily routine and create some white space where you can devote a certain amount of time to completing your tasks. The difficult part is staying disciplined and holding yourself accountable for actually completing those tasks.
With habit-stacking, you take advantage of your already existing routines and add new, positive habits, on top of the old ones. This is an example of how it works:
- After you set your coffee maker or kettle each morning, you will have a glass of water.
- Each night, as you turn off the bedside lamp and get ready to go to sleep, you will think of five things you feel grateful for.
The idea behind this is to take advantage of your existing patterns or routines and use them as triggers to attach new, positive habits that will help improve your life (this really is a topic that deserves a separate post, but you can read a bit more about habit stacking right here).
4. STICK TO THE PLAN
This step is all about holding yourself accountable for your habits and re-learning discipline. Sticking to a schedule isn’t always entirely possible. Life happens. Most of the time, this isn’t a big deal. It can, however, be an issue once you allow it to become a pattern.
Let’s say you promise yourself that you’ll devote 10 minutes every morning for meditation. If you miss one day, this does not equal failure. Just like skipping a single workout doesn’t mean that you’ll lose all the progress you’ve been making, overnight. Slipping up once in a while will happen, but in order to make those new habits stick, you have to always keep that structure in mind.
If you can’t spend 10 minutes meditating, use the next 30 seconds to take a few deep breaths and tune into your breathing.
Can’t finish that book tonight? Read through one chapter.
Don’t have enough time to write a blog post you planned to publish tomorrow? Write just one paragraph.
Even if you have just a few minutes to devote to that scheduled task, do it. It doesn’t matter how small, or insignificant it seems to you. Completing those small tasks is a key step to your success. It will help you stick to your schedule and stay disciplined. It doesn’t matter how little you get done- as long as you get something done, you’re making progress. At the same time, you’re training yourself to become more diligent with your schedule.
5. RECOGNIZE ALL SUCCESS
No matter how small, give yourself credit for working on improvement. If you’ve been trying to get up 30 minutes early every morning and you end up getting out of bed only 5 minutes early- this is progress. Celebrate it, instead of feeling defeated or getting frustrated with yourself.
Look for any small victories, any progress you’re making, even if it’s something tiny. By doing this, you’re choosing to focus on the good, positive things. When you keep yourself in a good, lifted mood, it helps you feel a little more inspired to keep going.
6. FORGET EVERYTHING THAT’S BEYOND YOUR CONTROL
Things that throw us off balance can be small- you know, just a little hiccup in life. OR, they can be significant and potentially life-changing. The smaller issues are much easier to get over, but to get back on track, the same is important in both scenarios: focus only on what you can control.
Don’t waste your time thinking “what if?” or waiting until “when…” because this kind of mindset will truly get you nowhere. Don’t tell, or ask yourself:
“Things will be better when…”
“I will get back on track when…”
“What if this never happened?”
“Where would I be in life if I didn’t have to deal with this?”
This is simply looking for excuses. I know, because it’s a mindset that I’ve struggled with in the past, and I can tell you that those perfect moments never come. Do not spend the rest of your life waiting.
It might feel uncomfortable. Being where you are right now might also not be the easiest place to start. But even if your circumstances are less than perfect, you can still make some kind of progress. It doesn’t matter if it’s slow, messy, ugly or difficult. Progress- any kind of progress no matter how small- is always a better option than drowning yourself in excuses and perpetual complaining. You don’t have to have it all figured out in order to move on and get back on track.
7. MOTIVATION TO GET BACK ON TRACK HAS TO COME FROM WITHIN
Whenever you feel like you’ve lost that spark, drive, motivation (whatever you want to call it) remember that the only person that can help you find it again, is you. It’s not always as simple as reading a nice quote, watching an inspiring video, or reading a chapter from a good self-help book. Those things are nice, they’re important, but ultimately, motivation is not something that someone can just hand you and say: “here, just take this, it will make things better!”
If any of it were easy- going after your dreams, accomplishing your plans and learning new things, getting over a setback- we’d all be living out our dream lives. Truth is that it’s rarely easy. This includes getting back on track with your goals and habits.
One of the things that help me find that motivation again, is asking myself a simple question: why?
Why did I want to learn to play the guitar in the first place?
Why do I want to get back into fitness?
Why do I want to go back to a plant-based diet?
Why am I not willing to ever give up on writing?
To me, a lot of the habits I was trying to re-built were things that in the past helped me feel happy, healthy, strong and fulfilled. After experiencing a major misfortune or difficulty, rebuilding that routine can be very tough. By looking for my “why?” I get all the motivation I need to keep going and keep pushing myself. Because I know that there is a lot of meaning behind those habits and routines I’m rebuilding.