It might be a long weekend or a holiday vacation that takes us out of our usual element. In the new place, we don’t have the same habit triggers and setup that we had at home. The normal schedule is disrupted and eventually a long-standing habit is broken. Perhaps you’re building a habit of writing every day, and a particular election that occurs—one that you should probably comment on— but simply can’t quite get the right words together to do so. So you wait. Then it doesn’t quite feel right to write anything else, so you wait some more. Then a month goes by. When these situations inevitably happen, how do we get habits back on track?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve half-written a bunch of blog posts that you could be reading right now, but none of them felt quite right. At this point, so much has happened that I’m honestly not quite sure what one thing I could write about that would feel like I was making up for lost time. And the longer I let it go, the louder that sound echoed in my brain.
If you’ve felt this way too, understand that it’s completely human. We are not robots. Even though we can build up the discipline muscle over time, getting it stronger, every now and then we pull a muscle and need to take some time to recover. So now that you’re ready to get started, here’s how you can get back on track, too.
1 / Take one step forward
Life is weird. It’s messy. The path you walk is not always a direct one, but it is your path. It might have taken some twists and turns that you didn’t expect, but the best thing to do is own that and take the next step forward. Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to let go of the guilt you may feel for missing a certain amount of time. You are where you are, now keep going towards where you want to be.
2 / Get back to basics
When a Major League Baseball player gets on a cold streak at the plate, he goes back to the batting cages. If you’ve missed 100 pitches, you probably shouldn’t try to knock the next one out of the park–go for a single base hit. Get back to the simplest form of whatever you need to do and connect the ball to the bat. Whether it’s push-ups or writing 500 words per day, default to whatever comes more naturally to you. Don’t force yourself to do the fancy push-ups, just get them done.
3 / Change it up
If you’re sitting, try standing. If you’re caffeine-free, try drinking coffee. If you’re hooked on coffee, try not drinking it for a day. If you’re feeling stuck or the resistance is piling on heavy, change your environment or shake up your routine. If you messed up the diet you’ve been on and need to break a sugar spiral, go to the store and buy an entire stalk of celery and a jar of peanut butter. Eat the entire thing until you no longer crave sugar. That sounds slightly crazy, but changing up your habits and the reward can help you break a downward spiral and get your habits back on track.
4 / Keep it short
Your return debut doesn’t have to be a 3,000-word epic. It can be a short introduction, five bullet points, and a paragraph to bring it all home. Trying to force yourself to pump out your best work after taking an unintentional break is usually a fruitless pursuit. Whatever it is that you need to do, keep it short, concise, and to the point. If you need to, break down your task into the smallest amount of that thing that allows you to break through resistance and get it done. If you find yourself procrastinating or not doing the thing, follow the habit rule of half to get your habits back on track.
5 / Let go of your narrative
So much of our lives are determined by the stories we tell about ourselves and the people around us. Allow yourself to let go of the narrative that speaks to why you may have fallen “off track.” Let go of the belief that there is something holding you back from doing what truly matters to you. You aren’t bad at writing. Your business idea isn’t any worse than it was a few weeks ago just because you let it sit for a while. You can do it because you’ve done it. You still got it. Go get it.
No matter what you may be feeling resistance to, no matter what reason you may be on a slightly misdirected path, you have it in you to take the next step forward. Realize that there isn’t really a track to fall off of and you simply need to restart to move forward. Get back to the basics. Change up your environment as you see fit, try something different if you’re not feeling it. Keep it short, don’t feel the need to go big, and narrate your own story about how you’re going to take that step forward right now. It is with intentionality, compassion, and restarting that we can get our habits back on track.