When You Fall Off the Wagon, Get Back on Again

healthy habits

How great would it be if it was easy to start new healthy habits? Everyone would be perfectly healthy. I’d be out of a job. Some days I fantasize about working in a fabulous boutique. But my job in a boutique will stay a fantasy because the reality is that starting new habits takes effort. The funny thing is that the difficult stage isn’t the first few days. For the first few days, most of us are gung ho about our new habit. To use some of my 1980’s childhood slang “we’re totally psyched”. We’re taking action and everything is smooth sailing. Then one day we just don’t feel like getting out of bed to go for that morning yoga class. Or, the junk food in the convenience store calls out our name as we walk past after work. Pretty much all of us will fall off the wagon. My post this week is inspired by both my personal experience and a recent conversation with a client. Both of us fell off the wagon with our new healthy habits. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you will have seen that I’m challenging myself to meditate every day for 1 year. I started August 23rd. And, as expected, it was smooth sailing for over a month. Then one day I came smack up against a wall. I didn’t want to stop what I was doing during the day and meditate (not that what I was up to that day was especially important). I fell off the wagon. I didn’t meditate. It would have been so easy to slip back into my old routine (i.e. not meditating). But I dug in, changed things up, and did an active meditation. Since then it’s been smooth sailing again. In other words, I got back on the wagon.

Pretty much all of us will fall off the wagon with our healthy habits. What’s important is getting back up on the wagon again. It’s so easy to let the negative self-talk take over when we fall off the wagon. Do thoughts like this sound familiar?

“Now you’ve done it. You’ve lost your 365 days challenge. It’s all over now. There’s no point doing anything today. What were you thinking in doing it anyways, there’s no way that you could achieve that. It was unrealistic. You’re not consistent enough at anything. There’s no point in trying new things.”

If we don’t make the effort to stop it, that voice can spin out of control, applying our “failure” to more and more aspects of our life.

Here’s what to tell that voice. Wellness doesn’t require perfection. The benefit of these habits is realized over time, when we do them more often than we don’t. I will enjoy reduced stress from meditating for 364 (or 363, 360, or 355) days instead of 365. You will reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes if you eat 7 servings of veggies and fruit most days. You will become stronger if you make 8 out of the 10 weeks of that strength training for women class.

I’m going to go even further. I have a suspicion that falling off the wagon is actually a good thing. When we get back on again, we show ourselves that we CAN recover. We believe in ourselves even more now because we are no longer afraid of falling off the wagon. We know that if we fall off, we can just get right back up on it. As my friend, executive and sports coach Vic Lindal says, it’s not IQ or EQ (emotional intelligence), that sets successful people apart. It’s AQ (adversity quotient) – how well you do in the face of adversity, that will determine your success in achieving your goals.

When you fall off the wagon (and you will), get back on again.