For many, fall is a time of new beginnings, a new school year, new schedules, new wardrobes, new menus, and often a time of reset and recommitment to past goals.
Several years ago, I had a client who said working with me had helped her with “The Return.” What is “The Return?” I asked curiously. Her answer stuck with me and has become an important part of many of my ongoing coaching conversations. “The Return” refers to every individual’s ability to revisit past behaviors. Although I don’t love the concept of being “on” or “off” track (because we’ve really only got one track, that is one life, to lead!), “The Return” is that recommitment to habits that have served us in the past.
Like the seasons of the year, you may find seasons of your health journey. There are times when complying with your treatment plan and/or lifestyle goals feels easy, and there are times when it feels hard. Motivation ebbs and flows. These seasons are normal and to be expected. Although getting “off track” can feel discouraging, there are steps you can take to find your own “Return” more easily.
1.Revisiting when you were successful in the past. Guess what? This hard thing you feel like you can’t do right now? You’ve done it before! Take yourself back to the time when your desired behavior was part of your routine. What did it look like? What did it feel like in your body? Who or what was supporting it? Remind yourself of what you’ve achieved in the past and exactly where your strengths lie to help boost your confidence; those achievements, strengths, and behaviors are absolutely still a part of your identity.
2.Restart. The first little step is often the hardest. Pick one day and start small. If you are hoping to return to a cleaner way of eating, for example, pick one meal on one day with which you want to start and build from there. Retracing those old neural pathways in your brain helps physiologically jumpstart “The Return.”
3.Don’t be surprised. Have grace, and don’t be surprised if and when motivation wanes. Anticipating backward steps can make them less devastating. When it comes to behavior change, an all-or-nothing attitude can be your worst enemy, so embrace self-compassion and remember that if and when you make a “bad” choice, YOU are not a bad person. Each setback is a normal part of habit change and the growth process so embrace the slip-ups as opportunities to develop coping skills for next time.
4.Don’t punish yourself. Resist the urge to deprive or punish yourself when things don’t go perfectly. Instead, practice curiosity. What circumstances led to the setback? Were there needs that weren’t being met? How can you set yourself up for continued success in the future?
5.Adjust your goals to focus on things that really matter to you. Remember that you don’t always have to return to the exact same goal. What was highly important to you in college may not be as motivating to you today. Be thoughtful and realistic about what matters to you at this moment, and let go of outdated agendas.
Above all, trust that “The Return” is yours for the taking. Getting off track is not the end of the story but a chance for yet another new beginning.
With love, in health,