Written by Nina Wilder
When it comes to working towards health and fitness goals - whether it’s working out regularly, or eating healthier - there is a common trend that often stops us in our tracks.
It’s so insidious, we don’t even notice it until poof! We’ve stopped going to the gym, stopped cooking healthy dinners, and we’re back to old habits feeling more discouraged than ever.
The problem is this: life happens. There is this famous saying: Life is what happens when you were busy making other plans. And it’s completely true: birthdays, weddings, injuries, sleepless nights, sick kids, snowmaggedons (if you’re living anywhere like Calgary, this is a life-changer every time!) It is inevitable that life will throw us curve balls any given day, but the real issue is not the events themselves but our reactions to them.
So many of us have trained ourselves to automatically allow these events to halt our goals. We might interpret these new conditions as things that don’t allow us to continue with grocery shopping, going to that Pilates class or whatever it might be. It can sound something like, “I have to go to parent-teacher night, there’s no way I can fit in a workout today.”
This is an example of all-or-nothing thinking that can be so fatal to our goals. It can come in many forms, such as:
“I’m on vacation, I’ll focus on eating healthy once I’m back.”
“I’m dealing with a lot of stress, I can’t handle going to the gym right now.”
If eating healthy and going to the gym were ingrained habits, this wouldn’t be a problem. A solid habit will find its way back into our life sooner rather than later - but why is that? Because we spent the time making it a habit. When we’re talking about new habits (and even a three-month-old habit is still new!), missing one or two days may be all it takes to lose it completely.
This is where we have the problem. Life will always “happen” to us but when we use that as a reason to halt any and all action towards our goals, we are training our minds to do that each and every time. Every time there is a slight plot twist, our fragile life-changing habits fall to the wayside. Then we’re back to square one, either weeks, months or years down the road.
The solution is to train our brains to not stop our habits but to adapt them to our current life situation.
We can do this by first letting go of rigid plans. We cannot always have the time for the perfect workout or cooking a healthy, Instagram-worthy dinner, but if we allow ourselves to go for “the next best option” or even “feeble attempt”, we at least do something towards our goals. Even if our workout is relegated to 25 jumping jacks in our living room, that is largely better than nothing. More critically, it keeps the momentum of our habits alive. This means that when life finally gives us our time or sanity back, we can re-install our healthy habits back in full force, with a lot more ease.
We can never expect life to play out perfectly for us (How many spent Christmas snowed in this year?). However, we can train ourselves to be more adaptive and thus consistent in the habits we are trying to form, ultimately, putting us on the fast track towards our goals.