Podcast # 96 – Falling Off And Getting Back On Track
Believe me, we have all been there.
You’re working hard towards a career goal and then all of a sudden your enthusiasm dies. Or you have been adhering to a healthy diet and one weekend everything gets thrown out the window as you have a binge; perhaps you stuck to a rigid exercise regime for months and then found yourself slipping, only to end up lazy on the couch again.
It’s not uncommon to fall off the wagon and lose track of what you are working towards. It’s happened to me and I’m sure it has happened to you at some point in your life. It’s hard to keep the motivation alive and the energy up, especially if the journey to your goal is a long one.
While the goals and the reasons for falling off track are going to be different for each individual, there are a few things I have learnt along the way that relate to everyone regardless:
The most successful people in life have fallen off track and have made mistakes along the way. It’s all part of being human. This doesn’t define you as being a failure, instead it creates challenges, makes you work harder, highlights strengths and weaknesses of your personality and makes achieving your goal even sweeter.
In the Harvard Business Review, author Frederick Herzberg once wrote about motivation and it is something that has really stuck with me. He stated that motivation comes from within you. Others can motivate you, but it will only last for a short time. In order to stay motivated long-term it needs to come from you. Only you can reignite your motivation when it’s low. And believe me, no one person is immune to losing motivation (I certainly am not!).
There are some key things I have learnt to keep my motivation alive and to pick me up when I have felt like it was slipping:
Surround yourself with positive people
I find this particular important when I am striving to achieve something and stay on track. As you spend time with those people that make you want to be a better person and simply do better in life, you will find your network might shrink. The more time you hang out with people that refuel your energy, the more inspired you will be to keep working towards you goals.
Ditch the negative people
It might sound a little harsh and to some point it is, but it is important for your self-worth, motivation and personal success to reduce the contact you have with negative people. Spending time with negative people brings your energy down and can have an effect on your overall outlook to life. I’m sure you have been in a situation where you can literally feel your motivation being sucked out by your friend over a coffee as they complain and exude self-pity.
Have you ever watched or read something that just made you feel like getting out there and tackling your own personal goals? I know sometimes I hear something and get really inspired to the point where my motivation reaches its peak. So when you are feeling like your motivation is taking a nose dive and you are falling off track, start to read, listen or watch inspiring content and things you love to be influenced by.
Create mini goals
When you have set a major goal, it’s almost impossible to keep your motivation up and feel energised for the duration until you have conquered it. Creating mini goals to break it up in small bite sized pieces is the best way to keep your motivation levels up. You will be able to start accomplishing things every day and that will make you feel like you are one step closer to achieving your dreams.
Motivation of course plays a huge part in keeping you from falling off, but what is clear is that successful people have the ability to get back on track quickly and bounce back from any failures or obstacles that they may have experienced. They have key strategies in place to help them do this. It’s not easy and not something that comes naturally, but once you set them in place they will help you succeed.
These strategies will just become part of your life and be the support you need when you do find yourself losing your way.
Create a schedule
Regardless of your goal, the first thing you should do is create a schedule for your habits allocating a specific time for them in your life.
There will be habits you can physically schedule into your diary to ensure you meet you targets and stay on track. If you want to up your exercise regime, schedule in your training times each week. Perhaps you want to get back to painting, create a website or start meditating; schedule in time in your studio or your office and be specific i.e. 10am Sundays, I will be there!
Then there are the habits that you want to include in your life that are not as easy to set a particular time. For example, you may want to drink more water throughout the day or become more mindful or happier in yourself. Instead of using time to schedule these habits into your day, harness the power of triggers to act as a reminder to help you do them.
Want to drink more water? Start by drinking a glass before you sit down for a meal or while you are waiting for the kettle to boil for your cup of tea. If you want to be more mindful, switch everything off while you eat and focus on the flavours, textures, smells of your food rather than your Facebook feed. Perhaps it is inner happiness you are trying to achieve? Find a trigger that occurs regularly in your day, this could be your phone ringing for example. When it rings, tell yourself one thing you are grateful for.
Before you know it these habits will just become part of your everyday life. A constant, that when you start to fall off the track, you can reach for.
Make any attempt to stick to the schedule
Let’s be honest, sticking to a schedule can be difficult and sometimes you just can’t make it to that gym session because a work meeting gets in the way. Missing one commitment is not going to throw you right off track. It is when you consistently stray from your personal goals that you will find yourself thrown off course.
There is a simple way around this and that is to make any attempt to stick to your schedule. So you can’t go to your gym class, then do a 15 min high intensity workout in your living room. Perhaps you don’t have time to write that article for your website, then write a paragraph. The early breakfast meeting doesn’t give you time to carry out your meditation practice that morning; instead focus on your breathing during your commute.
It is these little efforts that show that you are committed to your goal and the life you are trying to curate for yourself.
Create an accountability system
Research shows that those who share their goals with others are more likely to stay on track and achieve them. A lot of the times we associate this with exercise and having a friend or personal trainer who helps you keep on track and encourages you to follow through on your commitment.
But creating an accountability system isn’t just applicable for those who want to stick to a regular workout. When you know someone expects something of you, you are more likely to show up, get the work done and keep up with your commitments.
An accountability person could be your partner, a friend, a business coach or colleague. As long as you trust them and respect them enough they can become a key element to help you stay on track. Schedule regular catch ups with them and ask them to help you set mini goals together so they have some expectation of you for the next time you meet.
Shift your focus
Everyone has excuses and believe me, I hear a fair few from my clients and also from myself.
‘I’m too busy’! ‘It’s too expensive’! ‘There isn’t enough time in the day’! I’m too tired’! Sounds familiar?
As soon as we let these excuses regularly slip in, we will fall off track. It’s important to recognise these excuses as excuses and instead of focusing on what is holding us back, we need to spend more time focusing on what we can work with.
Often we all start from similar places in our lives. Perhaps we have a lack of money, we are working a full time job while working on our dream project at the end of a long day, and maybe we have little experience or no resources. The difference between those that keep striving towards their dreams and those that don’t is that they start anyway.
Gaining success isn’t easy. It takes perseverance, discipline and inner strength. Instead of looking at all the things that are holding you back, shift your focus to what you can work with, what is available for you and just start!
Create conducive environment
You may think you have all the motivation in the world and have surrounded yourself with positive people, but if you place yourself in an environment that is not encouraging you for success than that might be the tipping point of whether you make it or not.
Sometimes we don’t think about this until we have fallen off track. A dark, dingy home office that houses the crap that you don’t know what to do with in boxes around your desk, isn’t the most inspiring work environment. In the same way, a pantry full of unhealthy processed food is not going to help you with your ambitions for a healthy lifestyle.
Help yourself remain inspired and on the path to achieving your goals by creating a conducive environment. Clean out your office and decorate it in a way that makes you want to spend time there. Throw out all your junk food and fill the shelves with healthy whole foods. I want to also point out, it isn’t not just the big changes that make a difference. It could be simply purchasing a water bottle that you love and want to carry with you all day, encouraging you to drink more; or a new yoga mat that makes you want to practice.
Understand where you went off track
Understanding where and why you went off track is possibly one of the most powerful things you can do in order to refocus and continue the journey to achieving your goals.
Think about it, if you know what made you binge eat that weekend you can better prepare yourself. Perhaps you were upset or stressed. When you recognise this you can start to put in place strategies to help you overcome the situation without falling off the wagon.
We are all human and while it can be hard falling off and trying to get back on track again, it is all part of the process. If you really care about the goal, you will find a way to keep your motivation thriving and make it work in your schedule regardless of the hurdles and excuses.
Often when we are implementing new habits we see a pattern of taking two steps forward and one step back. It’s how you anticipate these obstacles that makes the world of difference. Developing strategies to get you committed to your routine and to support you when you do face challenges will help you get back on track as quickly as possible and hopefully succeed.