It seems we are constantly trying to “get back on track” with something in our lives. We may be trying to get back to healthy eating, working out, de-cluttering, dating or work on some project we’ve dropped. And if we’ve really fallen behind, the disappointment and overwhelmed feeling can lead to a sense of failure, low motivation and paralysis.
The truth is, most of the time we fall behind for good reason. Life gets busy–work gets intense, the kids come home for a break, friends and family need attention, we injure ourselves, we get sick, depressed, lonely, apathetic, and the list goes on. Some of the time, we might actually need a break from the forward movement in our lives and we may unconsciously create that break by getting sick or injured.
Somehow, we forget to cut ourselves slack for getting derailed. It’s as if we expect life to move forward in a straight line, without bumps and detours and yes, backtracks.
If we get in the habit of making room for backtracks, and, in fact, see them as a natural part of life, just a “pause”, we will find that we can move through them, and forward, more easily.
Making room for sliding backwards begins with adjusting our expectations. Stop for a moment and reflect: are your expectations unrealistic with respect to staying on track with your goals? Be honest with yourself.
A good way to get clear on your expectations is to write down your thoughts about the areas of your life you are trying to get back on track with.
My client Jenna wrote down her thoughts about getting back to her old level of fitness after an injury:
“I can’t believe how far I am from my fitness goals because of this
injury. I don’t think I’ll ever get back to where I was. What’s
the point in doing so little exercise.”
Jenna’s tendency was to stay motivated by setting high expectations for herself. She didn’t like to be “too easy” on herself, lest she get lazy and slack off. But her unrealistic expectations and pessimistic thinking were actually having the opposite effect—they were leading her to avoid exercising, slack off and eat to comfort herself.
Just writing down her expectations helped Jenna see that she was setting herself up for a no-win situation. She realized that even though she was frustrated with the set-back, she felt better when she applauded herself for small gains and “made space” for a longer recovery period. She noticed that she enjoyed her limited workouts more with her renewed perspective.
While lowering expectations isn’t always easy, it’s more effective than beating yourself up for getting derailed. You don’t deserve a beating; there is always a good reason you fell off track. And once you’re back on-track you can consider raising your expectations. Just remember to keep them reasonable. Progress, not perfection.
Posted by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, MFT. If you have a question or topic you would like to see addressed in this blog, go to http: //www.overeatingrecovery.com.