Updated: Feb 3, 2022
People are good at starting the process of change. A diet. A workout program. Quitting drinking or smoking. Spending less time on social media or Netflix. We’re all gung-ho when we first set out. Our enthusiasm and motivation are flying high, and we feel unstoppable. Everything is new and exciting. We tell our friends and family all about our plans because we’re convinced that this time, we’re going to make it happen no matter what.
At first, everything is going according to plan. You stick to what you said you would do, and everything is great. And then… life happens. Your boss informs you that he’s moved up an important deadline and he needs you to work weekends and overtime for the next month. The kids get sick. The dog gets sick. The stock market crashes and takes half your 401k with it. The guy you just broke up with calls you to say he’s been diagnosed with an STD. Your check engine light is on and you smell something burning beneath the hood. Whatever it is… suddenly you forget all about your plan. You’re focused on the crisis and you start falling back into your old bad habits. “I’ll do better tomorrow” you say to yourself. But when tomorrow comes, you’re still seeking relief from whatever was causing you stress the day before. Old habits are comfortable and soothing, and all you really want is to feel better. Before you know it, weeks or even months have gone by without you picking up your promised new habits, and whatever progress you made has evaporated.
Sustainable change is something that all people struggle with. We develop habits (good or bad) for a reason, because they do something beneficial for us. Even if they have negative consequences, they are useful in some way or we wouldn’t keep repeating them. Anyone can keep up a new routine as long as life is going well and they don’t encounter any stress or resistance. But how long can you really expect that to go on? Life is full of unexpected curveballs, pot-holes, and detours. The real test of any new plan is how well it endures when life doesn’t cooperate. And that’s the part that most of us aren’t so good at. At the first sign of an obstacle, we immediately reach for the thing we used to comfort ourselves with. Probably the exact thing that we said we wanted to change.
To be successful with any new intention, we have to be prepared with a plan for what we’re going to do when things don’t go our way. It might not be perfect, but as long as it’s better than what we used to do, that’s still progress. It’s also critically important that we don’t beat ourselves up for having setbacks or outright failures. The negative self-talk only creates more stress, which causes more discomfort, which causes an even greater need to seek relief. Look for something to congratulate yourself about, even if you didn’t stay true to your plan. What is one tiny, insignificant thing that you did RIGHT? Focus on that, celebrate it, and see what you can do to create more of that tomorrow. Don’t let yourself fall into a slump that could take you all the way to rock bottom again before you start over. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Have a backup plan for what you’ll do to stay aligned with your goals when things go wrong. Accept the fact that there will be setbacks, but setbacks don’t have to turn into roadblocks.
Life will never cooperate with your plans. It’s up to you to make your plans fit into your life. That means allowing for flexibility, and giving yourself grace for not being perfect. Your success is made or broken in the way that you handle setbacks. You know they’re going to happen. So come up with your Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and as many fallbacks as you need to assure that no matter what happens, you’ll still be celebrating a win at the end of the day.
Written by Natalie Fayman, CPC, ACC, ELI-MP, COR.E Dynamics Wellbeing Specialist
If your plans keep falling apart at every bump in the road, consider giving yourself an unfair advantage. Having a coach to help you navigate the unpredictabilities of life is like having Roadside Assistance when you get a flat tire. You get results! And you get them sooner, with a lot less struggle than if you had to figure out how to change that flat tire all by yourself. Schedule your free 30-minute consult call to find out more about how I can help you accomplish your goals, and start living your dream.