I’ve recently been doing some deeper study into human behaviour and how our minds work. So what to do when the wheels fall off of our best laid out plans? It happens to everyone including me. We are only human. Behaviour change takes time and perseverance.
Research on people who quit smoking, for example, shows that it takes several attempts before they finally quit for good. Beating yourself up over a short-term setback will only keep you stuck. Instead, forgive yourself, and start afresh right now…
Here are my 5 best tips to get you back on track to hitting your goals:
1. The trick is to just get started.
Yes it is that simple. Obviously, you don’t feel like doing whatever it is you have to do, or you’d be doing it. But that’s mainly because of inertia. The trick is to do something – anything really – to get yourself moving again in the direction of your goal.
2. Be Specific
So, for example, it’s not effective to tell yourself “I want to get back to exercising again.” You have to make it more specific. Otherwise, your rational mind will find too many options about how to do that. And too may options will surely keep you in a state of analysis paralysis.
Instead, tell yourself something like “I will reinitiate my exercise routine by working out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
3. Use Implementation Intentions
Part of the reason people never get back on track with their goals is explained by how their goal is set (i.e., is it specific enough?). Another part of the problem, however, is there’s no clear plan for acting on the goal.
An implementation intention is a mini action plan that’s been scientifically proven to help you follow through on your goals. In one study, for example, women who wrote down an implementation intention specifying when and where they would conduct a breast self-examination did so 100% of the time. On the other hand, women who failed to create such a plan did so only 53% of the time.
An implementation intention takes the form of an if-then statement – if situation X arises, I will perform behavior Y. So, following my example from above, you might write down you implementation intention as follows: “If it’s 6:00am on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, I will go to the studio and do the training session for 45 minutes.” Again, the key here is to be very specific.
4. Eliminate Distractions
The demands on our time are greater now than ever. Likewise, never before in history have we faced so many possible distractions. If you jump every time your phone rings, a new email arrives or you iPhone beeps, you’ll never get back on track with your goal.
When you create an implementation intention, you’re not only giving your rational mind specific instructions about what to do. You’re also making time in your schedule to actually do it. But you have to take it a step further. You have to set aside a specific block of time when your attention is dedicated 100% to working on your goal.
Time blocking works best if you set a definite start and end time when you have no other meetings or commitments. Lock your door, turn off your phone and make yourself unavailable for any other tasks. If the Internet is too tempting, download what you need ahead of time, and turn off your Internet connection during your time block.
5. Get an Accountability Buddy
Research shows that when you share your goals and commitments with others, you’re more likely to follow through on them. My own experience confirms this and it really does work. Last year I had a real rocky patch and training was right out the window and food was even worse. I knew I needed to get back into better habits but knew I wouldn’t do it (as fast) alone. I got in touch with an associate and friend of mine that’s also in the fitness industry and she checked in on me asking about the training and I had done and planned to do, and what had I been eating. After 2 weeks of this I was right back on track, felt good about it (plus I didn’t want to have to say that I had achieved nothing when I was being held accountable to someone else!).
An accountability buddy can be anyone you trust and respect enough help you get back on track. When you keep your goals and commitments secret, it’s too easy to avoid changing your life and to drift back to old habits and routines.
It’s Never Too Late
Like I said, behaviour change takes time, patience and persistence. Learn what you can from the short-term setback, then let it go, don’t beat yourself up about it, just start afresh today. Use the five tips to help you through the plateau and get yourself back on track to achieving your goal.