We’ve all heard about how to establish a new habit. Something we hear about less frequently is how to RE-establish an old habit.
So many times, life gets in the way of our healthy habits. Work gets stressful, kid-schedules take over, family members need our attention and care for extended periods of time. The list goes on. Our routines are upset and suddenly we don’t remember how we ever made going to the gym a regular practice.
Regaining control over a lost habit comes with all the difficulties of starting a new habit, but with one crucial obstacle: now you’re weighted down by a feeling of failure for losing the old habit in the first place. Starting a new habit is like learning to walk. Re-establishing an old habit is remembering how to walk, but now you’re slogging through muddy shame and guilt up to your knees.
Makes it kinda hard to take that first step, amiright?
The paralysis of these thinking patterns doesn’t let us see that we can start where we’re at right now. We’re stuck in wanting to be where we were. So, we put off starting over just one more day. And then another. And then one more.
I get it. Truly, I do. I have started gym habits over more times than I can count. Nobody wants to get stuck in this cycle. This is how the Al Bundy’s of the world came to be – those sad sacks reliving their four-touchdowns-in-one-game glory days at Polk High thirty years earlier. But, damnit if we just. can’t. seem. to. get. moving.
There is a way out of this cycle. Here are five quick tips to get back on track:
One: Start where you are. At the risk of sounding like a bad motivational poster, I’m going to point something very obvious out: You only have today. Start where you are today. Maybe you’ll get back to where you were, maybe you won’t. It doesn’t matter. This day, this moment, is where you’re at. Begin here.
Two: Keep the promises you make to yourself. Do something small today. Schedule it and follow through on it. When we follow through on promises to other people, we build trust and establish that we are reliable. Give yourself the same courtesy and keep the promises you make to yourself.
Three: Conduct a post-mortem. Evaluate what pulled you out of the habit and what will make you more successful this time around. Learn what you can from the experience and apply it to the present.
Four: Tell your inner critic to sit down and shut up. Your inner critic is a real asshole. They’re happy to tear you down for every missed workout, and there isn’t a single defense they’ll take as valid. And, worse, that voice tags along to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Fine then. Since they’re going to be there anyway, invite the little bugger along – but establish rules. They can sit in the bleachers and watch the show, but they have to keep their mouth shut while you get this thing done.
Five: Educate yourself. Building habits is hard. You don’t have to go it alone. Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is a great book that helped me. This book is chock full of ways to hack your habits. If reading isn’t your jam, find a YouTube Channel or a podcast that is more to your liking. No need to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others.
Begin small and take it all one step at a time. As one of my old managers told me when I rushed ahead and got tangled in the weeds on a project, “You don’t have to solve world peace today.” Focus on what you can do right now and move forward from there.
It’s okay to revel in old memories, but it’s more fun to make new ones.
Ps. Need some help getting started? Reach out to Erica at [email protected] today!