One of the most difficult things about building systems and habits in one’s life is the struggle to maintain consistency once one gets off track. Recently I took a family vacation to a beach front condo. While the trip was enjoyable, I found it extremely difficult to maintain my systems and habits. Finally I decided that I would take the week off.
But upon returning I realized that only a few of the positive habits that I had created returned to their original form. I struggled to exercise as much as I was prior to vacation, I continued to eat unhealthy food and I spent money as if I was still on the trip. I even put off writing for another few days.
Dr. Art Markman explains in Smart Change that “A key way that your brain helps you deal with the trade-off between effort and accuracy is by creating habits. Whenever you do something successful, mechanisms in your brain relate the action you performed to the situation in which you performed it. That way, when the situation comes up again your brain can suggest that you perform the same action.” New habits have been formed over the short break that I took. Getting back on track requires the repeated actions that I would like to see become habit.
While this originally seemed like a hardship, it reinforced a lesson that I previously learned. Rory Vaden says that “Success is never owned it is only rented and the rent is due every day.”
This is very true and I have found that it can be difficult to get back to the systems and habits that we create. Getting back on track requires a different mindset than continuing with a positive habit.
To get back on track rely on these 3 principles:
- Start slow with easy steps
- Be lenient with yourself
- Be flexible
First you have to realize that the habits and systems were built slowly over time. Jumping back in may be more difficult that you anticipate. Instead of jumping back in, ease in. Start with small, easy steps. The good thing is that our mind is predisposed to form habits and will form them much quicker once it “remembers” the old habits.
It is human nature to feel guilt when we disappoint ourselves. Guilt doesn’t make it easier or more likely to get back to positive routines. Instead it creates a mental block that often leaves us stuck, rather than motivated. Instead try to be lenient with yourself and become confident that you will indeed get back on track.
While at the beach condo we saw a great number of palm trees. It reminded me of an image that I have of a news caster in the middle of a hurricane. The hurricane winds were ripping through a coastal community destroying everything in their way. Yet the palm trees were able to withstand the wind, not through our traditional idea of strength, but through flexibility. They go along with the wind instead of resisting it knowing that the storm will pass.
Getting back to positive systems and habits after a break may seem impossible. What it really takes is a shift in perspective. Understand the “rent” is due everyday. Follow the principles of simplicity, leniency, and flexibility to give yourself the best chance to get back on track.