You have been following your morning routine every day. 22 consecutive days of meditation. Then it happened. One day you woke up late and you just couldn’t squeeze in the sitting practice before noon. Then in the evening you forgot to do it as well because it was not your habitual activity. Suddenly your streak is broken. It takes over 60 days to build a deeply rooted habit — you are very close to giving up meditation for good and you only missed day 23.
How to deal with your mind to stay on track and smoothly return to any habit?
This is what saved me from slipping out of my plan and abandoning my good habits for good:
1. Better done than perfect — your goals are important, but they are just a model. A model by its very nature is not a reality. Nobody is perfect and being dead serious about doing something 100% is somewhat funny. Would you agree that having abstained from chocolate for 25 days out of 30 is 6x better then eating it every day? Be serious about what you want to achieve, but do not cry if you have had one piece with coffee. Don’t let eating sweets become your habit and the very next day focus on getting back on track.
2. Don’t become a prisoner to numbers — sometimes when you fail to do something once you give up. You broke a 30-day no-coffee streak and starting over from day 1 seems like standing at the bottom of a steep mountain. I believe this is one of the biggest downsides of any kind of gamification. If you fail once you feel less motivated to start over. In moments like that I just think about why I started the habit in the first place. It is possible that you will find your core motivation and forget about the numbers.
3. Review what you have achieved — when you have a worse day look back. Hey you have not had a cup of coffee for the last 27 days. Wasn’t it great? You felt less shaky, spent less money and felt so much more in control. Build up your will power on what you have achieved. Visualise yourself in that state of accomplishment and let those vivid images empower you to get back to your routine.
4. Reduce tasks — most of the times that I’ve missed my routine or broke my no-sweets rule was when I was overworked or lacked sleep. As a rule of thumb — if you will make yourself sleep for 8+ hours a day for five days it will become increasingly easy for you to maintain your self-control and follow through on any routine.
5. Change context — an absolute deep reset like going to a SPA for a weekend or having a crazy party can break the auto-pilot mode of your overworked and overwhelmed brain. I found that paradoxically forgetting about responsibilities while under pressure helps me reactivate my enthusiasm and energy to get back on track. In other words — there are times when you will intentionally break your rules to get back to your habit with more passion. Just slow down to speed up.
These five rules helped me avoid slipping out of my good habits or getting back on track. I know some ideas might seem counterintuitive or simplistic — but try first before judging.
Next time you wake up late and miss the morning read: relax, congratulate yourself for all the preceding days that you managed to keep the routine, cross something out of that day’s schedule or, if your mind has gone bananas, let it go eg. take a weekend off and start again on Monday.
What are your experiences of getting back to your routine?