[This site is not just about American home cooking, it’s about navigating our busy lives and enjoying them to the fullest. On the Advice page, you’ll find planning & organization tips, ideas for living and thinking better, and of course, tips for seamlessly integrating food and cooking into your life.]
I didn’t publish a blog post last week.
Or the week before that.
And I didn’t let myself off the hook easily; I’m still thinking about it two weeks later.
But when we dwell on our perceived failures, we can sometimes feel less motivated to try again.
After missing two weeks of publishing in a row, I felt thrown off and disconnected. I screwed up once and it seemed easier to screw up again than to get back on track.
This applies to any habit or hobby you’re trying to adopt in your life.
Think of the last workout regimen you followed. It went well for a week or two, and then the new season of Stranger Things tied you to the couch for the night. And the next, and the next.
One mistake lodged into a string of successes seems to break the whole chain.
Messing up, taking breaks, mysteriously gaining 10 pounds after developing a craft beer habit, don’t make us failures. They make us human.
Our ability to get back up when we fall (even if, like, everyone saw you trip), makes us superhuman.
And with a few simple tips, you’ll be walking (strutting) again in no time.
Here’s my step-by-step guide on how to get back on track:
Go to bed earlier
You’re probably sick of people telling you to wake up early, so I won’t do that.
Here’s a much more pleasant suggestion: go to sleep.
Get to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight, and you might just wake up 15 minutes earlier. Take that extra time in the morning to re-focus on your goals: write for 15 minutes, stretch, go for a walk, do some research, watch a webinar on YouTube.
You need a guaranteed time in your day to get back on track, and all you have to do is close your eyes a little bit earlier.
Yeah, but, 15 minutes won’t make a difference
Sticking to your routine consistently is more important than sporadic spurts of work.
If you don’t have an hour to write 6 pages in the morning, write one paragraph. If you don’t have time to run a 5K, run to the end of your street. Can’t read a whole chapter? Get through one page.
Eventually your daily routine will turn into a habit; something that comes naturally and can be improved with time. I’ve finished 2 books in the past few weeks by reading 15 minutes per day, and now I crave those morning pages.
What would you do with an extra 15 minutes?
Work with what you’ve got
Around mid-September, I stopped running in the morning because it was too dark.
I live in a quiet, heavily wooded (creepy af) area and I will not run alone when it’s pitch black out. I got way off track with my running goals and just sort of complained about it.
Here’s what I should have done: joined a gym and used the treadmill, sucked up my pride a bought a running headlamp, found a local running group so that I wouldn’t have to run alone… the list could go on.
You will rarely work under perfect conditions when striving toward a goal, but there are always ways to overcome the barriers you face.
Focus on the resources available to you instead of the things you lack, and the path to your dreams will bust wide open.
And once you figure that out…
Okay, so you’ll join the gym so that you don’t have to run in the dark every morning.
Now, make sure you design your environment to make it as easy as possible to stick to this new routine.
Pack your gym bag the night before and leave it next to your door. Plug your laptop in on your desk so that it’s fully charged and ready for you to write in the morning. Set your food photography studio up (just me?) before you start cooking so you can just start snapping pics once dinner’s ready.
Do not rely on willpower or motivation to get you to your goals. Turn your entire environment into a visual reminder that you can’t ignore.
You’re back on track, feeling great, and you slip-up again.
You’re going to make more mistakes, more obstacles are going to get in your way, there will be another blog post I don’t publish.
Getting back on track is not something you do once, it’s a skill for you to develop and use any time you make a mistake.
It’s important to forgive yourself, move on, and start right back from the top of this list.
Over time, you’ll make less mistakes, and getting back on track will be easier. Over time, you’ll finish that novel, you’ll run that marathon, you’ll snag the dream job.
Working toward a goal, learning something new, or challenging yourself in some way is never easy. Dreams worth chasing never are.
But if you can brace yourself for those setbacks and develop a plan for getting back on track, you really can be unstoppable.