Conversations at the Crossroads.

Back in the Saddle

Lately, a few of my clients have been focused on reestablishing helpful habits from which they have strayed. These may be habits that help them to be more productive, or habits that make them feel balanced or healthier. In all of these cases, for a host of habits, these clients similarly have the sense that reestablishing the habit would be positive and useful. Yet, they remain stuck between the intention and implementation.

When we’re in an established routine, we experience with greater consistency the feedback loop between the idea, the action, and the reward. Any reluctance to take action which surfaces may be more easily overcome by revisiting recent memories of the action and the reward. We have some momentum already, and from this place we often feel compelled (and better equipped) to maintain it.

It would follow, then, that the more time that has lapsed since we last took action, the more difficult it might be for us to summon up the memory of the feeling of the reward. We are too far distanced and disconnected from that positive feedback loop. So we tend to focus instead on the energy we will expend in taking action, without any certainty of outcome. When we do that, any reluctance that surfaces may lead to inaction.

What’s the secret to getting back in the saddle on those helpful habits?

START SMALL: Give yourself a small, accessible goal. You want to build momentum without shocking the system, so think about the smaller shifts that take you gradually from zero to sixty, and create a plan that eases you in. Don’t slam down hard on the gas.

CONSIDER YOUR SUCCESS FACTORS: Under what circumstances are you most likely to follow through on that small, accessible goal? You feel differently, move differently, and work differently at various times of day, in certain environments, around particular people. It can be helpful to line up some of the parameters that will help you succeed. The first success is the most important in reestablishing the habit, and you’ll expand from there.

STAY PRESENT: See yourself moving through intention to initiation, and take note of what’s working and why. When we check out, or shift into autopilot, we miss out on an opportunity to gather information – what is easy or difficult about the process, how we feel about it, which factors contributed to our success (see SUCCESS FACTORS above). Fight the urge to disengage once the ball is set in motion.

LINGER IN THE REWARD: You’ve done it! You accomplished what you said you would, overcoming inertia. That’s something to celebrate. Before you power ahead into the next goal, give yourself some time and space to experience the reward. Without taking that moment, what is the point of it all?

These tips are intended to help you reinstate an activity or habit you have missed. You’re halfway there, simply because you decided it’s important, and I know you already have what it takes, because you’ve done it before. So give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published June 2, 2015