I just saw an email article about “backsliding.” It looked catchy, but now it’s lost somewhere in the enormity of unread mail. I could stress about missing it, but hey, life goes on. Stress happens when we think we’re supposed to have everything under control, and we beat ourselves up getting off track.
As humans we are not always good at sticking to a plan, or following through on our good intentions. We start diets, exercise plans, home improvement projects, and even new jobs full of vigor and enthusiasm. But just as often we give up because we think we slipped up, or we get discouraged and quit because our results are too slow or not what we expected. So we go back to mindless munching, hanging clothes on the exercycle, and try to ignore the sheetrock dust.
“One step forward, two steps back” is still better than no steps at all.
Trying to develop healthy eating habits is one of the hardest lifestyle changes for people to make, and a cause of a lot of stress when we don’t live up to our new standards. Instead of congratulating ourselves for three healthy meals, we let the midnight cookies make us believe all our plans are ruined. We might as well just give up, we think, because our efforts are all wasted now.
Better to take the advice of Scarlet O’Hara. Tomorrow is always another day, and any good action is a positive move, even in a string of bad choices. The more good choices we make, the easier they are to become a habit, even if a few bad moves are still included in the mix. Life is long enough for lots of starting over and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
Don’t try to change your world all at once.
Intelligent diet books will tell you not to try a new food plan at the same time you quit smoking, or try to change some other unhealthy habit. Overcoming addictions is stressful, and you need all your inner support to do each one. Conquering one bad habit will give you more confidence to rid yourself of the next one, so give yourself the opportunity to change one thing at a time.
Recognize when you have too much on your plate.
It is not just our menus that get overloaded. If you have had a daily routine of tasks, like checking your email, that suddenly seems coming apart, maybe you just have too much on your agenda. Take a look at what you can do without, and prioritize what matters to you. Building even a mental “to do” list, with more than you can accomplish, just builds more and more stress into your day.
Decide what you really want, and focus on what matters.
You may still want a remodeled bathroom, but unless installing tile is a talent you’re dying to cultivate, hire someone else to do it, and get your half finished mess off the floor. You may think unfinished tasks don’t annoy you, but they do generate stress every time you look at them, whether you verbalize it or not.
Look around your house or office for unfinished projects that may be creating stress in your environment. If you need to reboot your filing system, or give away some household junk, do whatever it takes to create a more enjoyable space. Then you can start each day fresh, without those particular stressors nipping at your mind.
Life is not perfect, and neither are we.
Getting sidetracked is not the same as failure. And even if it was, many highly successful people will tell you that failure is good. It is how we learn what works and what doesn’t.
“Failing” to accomplish what we started can happen for lots of reasons. Maybe it just wasn’t that important to us, or maybe there are just so many new and exciting things to do that we can’t do everything we’d like to.
Whatever the reason, backsliding does not make you a bad person. It only makes you human. Not every day needs to have the same choices, so don’t fault yourself when you change your mind. Go out there and explore. Try new things, set new goals. If your choices aren’t ones you want to stick with, you can always turn around. You can always start again.
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