How To Reset and Get Back on Track
If you've ever worked hard to achieve a goal, fitness-related or otherwise, you know setting goals is only part of the equation. You also have to achieve them. Unfortunately, life happens. At any point along the way, you may get derailed.
"Setting goals is just one piece of it," says Aimee Richardson, a health coach and tobacco treatment specialist at Henry Ford Health System. "If you're making progress and you hit a roadblock that you didn't see coming, you may feel defeated — and that makes it tough to get back on track."
Establishing Achievable Goals
Setting smart, achievable goals is an important first step to making sure you limit the setbacks you'll face on the way to the finish line.
"The key is to make your goals actionable," explains Richardson. "So losing weight is not something you can act on; it's not something that's within your control. But you can decide to eat more fruits and vegetables."
One way to create actionable goals is to focus on the S.M.A.R.T. format, which includes five key tenets. Here's how they break down, using a goal of creating a meditation habit as an example:
· Specific: Instead of vowing to meditate, you'll set a goal like, "meditate for 5 minutes daily."
· Measurable: You can keep a log to make sure you meet your daily requirement.
· Attainable: Five minutes isn't much time; you can squeeze it into your day.
· Relevant: It’s a step toward improving your focus and reducing stress.
· Time-bound: You’ll do this for one month and then reassess how you feel.
While creating a SMART goal encourages success, it's also important to think of ways you can hold yourself accountable while you work to achieve those goals. That includes having supportive tools in place to help you recover after a setback.
When you're working to achieve a challenging goal, sometimes one small misstep can spiral into self-sabotage. Sneak a cube of fudge at the holiday party? You may feel inclined to overindulge all month. Skip your morning workout because of the frigid air? You might decide to go a full week without exercise.
"It's a slippery slope," Richardson says. But you don't need superhuman determination to stay on track. What you need is an attitude shift; one that views setbacks as an opportunity to refine your approach.
Whether you feel overwhelmed, have taken missteps, or lost much-needed steam, here are five ways to reset after a setback:
1. Remember your why. Why did you set out to pursue this goal in the first place? When you're able to connect your goal back to your core values, you'll be better equipped to stay the course.
2. Get back on the horse. The longer you allow yourself to waffle after a setback, the harder it will be to get back on track. A healthier approach: Dive back into your normal routine at the earliest opportunity.
3. Focus on the positive. Maybe you didn't achieve your goal quite the way you'd planned. Chances are good you still made a fair amount of progress. Instead of dwelling on how you failed, focus on the positive changes you've already made.
4. Find your tribe. When you're adopting new habits, it's important to surround yourself with people who will support you and hold you accountable. Give a loved one or a friend permission to help you stick to the program, whether that means meeting at the gym four days each week or texting them that you did take three deep breaths before you got out of bed in the morning.
5. Plan for pitfalls. "If you establish goals knowing that what you write down on paper doesn't always translate to real life, you'll be better prepared to recover after a setback," Richardson says. Take some time to identify obstacles that have the potential to derail you. Then create a plan to manage those triggers.
Recommit To Your Goals
When you suffer from a setback you have a choice: You can let it keep you stuck, or you can use the setback to double up on your efforts and work even harder. Sometimes our goals are too big or too vague to make an impact. When you recommit to your goal, plot out a course to help you stay on track:
· Break down what might feel like a massive change into small, manageable tasks.
· Set a clear timeline for the completion of each task.
· Plan how you'll accomplish each step.
"Setbacks are an opportunity to regroup and define a clearer path forward," Richardson says. "They're an opportunity to make sure that you've set goals you're really energized about and then plot out a course that doesn't overwhelm."
Not achieving your goals doesn’t mean that you're a failure. It’s an opportunity to strengthen your resolve and ensure you're going after the right goals. When you put supports in place, you'll discover that you're better equipped to get on track after a setback — and that's a powerful motivator.
Credit: Aimee Richardson, MCHES, CHWC, NCTTP