7 top tips for habit change - Tip 3

Set back 

Expect set backs and think about them differently.

Tip Number 3: Reframe setbacks

Partly because willpower is a wave (see tip number 1) and partly because life is complex and sometimes gets in the way of our plans, there WILL be times when we all veer from the course. When we are trying to change our habits long term, it is essential  to build in a limited amount of emergency passes in order to prevent us from crumbling. 

We must recognise that there will be those on-the-run days where having perfectly balanced meals  is impossible and there will be evenings on the sofa when we feel low and scoff down some biscuits. In fact, it isn’t really the fact that these setbacks occur from time to time that is problematic for reaching a long term goal, it’s the way we think about them and behave afterwards that really matters. When we shame ourselves for being less than perfect, we often respond with somewhat fatalistic behaviour that doesn’t serve us and we also miss an opportunity to learn from failure. 

Take the example of scoffing the biscuits on the sofa (come on, we’ve all done it!). Imagine we practise a bit of self compassion and introspection and say to ourselves ‘oh well, everyone has off days. It’s not that surprising considering that over many years I have learned to cope with difficult emotions  using food. One meal off plan compared with all the weeks of healthy meals I’ve eaten is not going to make much of a difference long term, but what can I learn from this?’. Perhaps being compassionate  and introspective about our evening biscuit-eating may help us figure out that we tend to  lack good judgement on  evenings when we haven’t had an adequate lunch break or had a stressful conversation with a family member. If we are too busy shaming ourselves, we learn nothing. 

Now imagine a different type of reaction to the same scenario- ‘That was disgusting. I’ve ruined all my hard work. I’ll never be able to stick to this long term. What’s wrong with me? I may as well give up.’ 

Which way of thinking about the same  situation is going to help us progress? 

I’ll leave that there.