One major advantage of being an adult is that you know the routine by now. You set a new goal – or goals — you feel passionate about. You’re filled to the brim with a newfound sense that you really, positively will change your life this time. You have a clear view of the right solution. You’ve read a self-help book – finally the right self-help book — that has totally transformed your way of thinking. You’re sure that this time you’ll follow all the way through with your plans. There’s no way you’ll fall off the wagon. Not a chance. You’re unstoppable.
Until the unthinkable happens, that is.
Until life gets in the way.
No matter how galvanizing the self-help book, no matter how devoted you are to living more deliberately and meaningfully, you can only go so far down a new path before something will knock you off course. Maybe a devastating break-up will leave you with only enough energy to watch TV and sulk. Perhaps a horrible new boss will squeeze your will right out of you with her constant demands. Or a medical diagnosis may throw your very survival into question. More likely, though, just a plain, old-fashioned bad day – or string of bad days – is what will shunt you off even your strictest course and strongest intentions.
A wealth of respectable self-help books – many of which I’ve read and learned from myself — boast proven, perfectly legitimate prescriptions for really doing it this time. These books teem with inspirational examples of people just like you who have been able to secure unwavering fulfillment and happiness by simply applying “these proven steps” or “these basic principles.” These books pump you up with exciting promises. What they don’t do, unfortunately, is tell you the sobering truth: you can change your life, but not without interruptions.
In a culture hooked on the quick fix, it’s not easy to hear that life change isn’t an instant, one shot process. You know by now that you can expect to fall off the wagon after you’ve committed to a new habit, but you still tend to beat yourself up when you reach that inevitable point where you feel suddenly less able to focus on making that new habit stick. That’s why I want to remind you of what all of us, despite our adult wisdom, forget sometimes — that falling off track is a normal and necessary part of change. And knowing your plans will definitely be disrupted – either by outside demands or your own shifting mood and energy level — when you’re in the throes of transformation actually better prepares you for success.
The bottom line is this: Falling down and getting back up and falling down and getting back up, sometimes again and again, is not failure; it is a part of life for anyone wanting to learn and grow. So, with that in mind, always be sure to make room in your plans for falling off track. This way you won’t waste a lot of time shaming and blaming yourself when you get hit with a curveball and lose momentum.
What can you do to get going again? I’ll give you some great strategies in a couple of weeks. For now, give yourself a break! You probably deserve it.