92% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions, according to one study. Worthwhile, and therefore, challenging goals, in particular, will often stretch you to the point of making a mistake. In fact, we are all likely to face setbacks as we try to achieve our goals or create new habits. However, if you want to reach your goals, you must effectively manage the mistakes you make and setbacks you encounter. Having a structured set of behaviors will enable you to successfully mitigate the effects of the mistakes you make as you work toward your goals.
The first thing you’re going to do after you’ve had a slip up is forgive yourself. This might feel counterintuitive since we tend to think that we need to beat ourselves up after we make a mistake so that we don’t make the same mistake again. Focusing guilt that you feel over past actions is not useful. Guilt is useful as an indicator that you should stop performing a current action; If you’ve eaten three cookies and you feel guilty, use that as an indicator that you shouldn’t eat a fourth. Forgiving yourself and letting go of guilt frees up your cognitive resources which will allow you to direct your energy toward reaching your goals.
Unpack the Problem
After you’ve let go of your guilt, take the time to objectively reflect on your mistake. Unpack your slip-up to try to understand why it happened and how you can prevent it in the future. A useful technique for this is the “5 Why’s”. By repeatedly asking the question “Why” you can peel away the layers of symptoms, which will help you determine the root cause of your problem behavior. While this technique is called “5 Whys,” you may find that you will need to ask the question fewer or more than five times before you find the true cause of a problem or mistake. After you’ve reflected, make sure to record what caused the breakdown in your behavior so that you can take steps to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Resolve to End Zero Days
Resolve to have no more “Zero Days”. A Zero Day is a day on which you do nothing to move closer to achieving your goals. You should do something every day that contributes to the achievement of your goal, even if it’s so small it feels insignificant. If you feel overwhelmed by eating healthy, just try to eat vegetables with each meal. If you feel like it’s impossible to go to the box, just try going for a 20-minute walk or doing 30 air squats at home. By doing something every day that contributes to your achievement, your intentions stay focused and you never completely abandon your goals. Additionally, you’ll often find that performing these small positive actions will motivate you to perform more actions that move you closer to your goals.
Make a Detailed Plan
Now you’re ready to make a plan for your first week back on track. Goals tell us what we are going to achieve, but they do not tell us how we are going to achieve them. Emotions are unpredictable, so it’s best to not simply rely on motivation to keep you on the straight and narrow. You have to create a system that gives you structure and routine. For the first week back on track, make a plan of the actions you need to take each day. You’ll have each day mapped out so that you don’t have to make any decisions on the fly while your motivation might be low. Your health and fitness decisions will be made based on the plan you make. I find that it is easier to plan a week at a time rather than a month at a time. However, if your training schedule is relatively static, you could effectively plan that at the month level.
How do you handle adversity? Do you often let a few mistakes completely derail you from creating healthy habits? It’s easy to get discouraged when you slip-up, but if you have a plan to handle setbacks, you will be much more likely to reach your goals. Whenever you’re getting back on track, take it meal by meal and day by day. Celebrate the small wins you make each day, and be quick to forgive yourself for the mistakes you make. Learning to properly handle setbacks will help you accelerate your growth in and out of the box. If you haven’t already, take some time today to set a goal for yourself. If you’ve already set a goal, take some time to think about how you are going to implement these techniques when you make a mistake or slip back into bad habits.