You need to repeat a habit for 30 days before it becomes a routine. But what if you keep messing up the challenge early on?
Today I wasn’t able to keep to my new morning routine (shower, wash, brush, and smile). Instead, I woke up tired and late again. I shimmied into the same white sundress that I wore yesterday. I even forgot to eat breakfast until it was 1 PM. My entire day felt like it started off with a missed alarm, so what was the point in scrambling to catch up? I fell back into a paralyzed state.
For about an hour, I stared at my popcorn ceiling and was consumed by my thoughts. What do I do now? I am always screwing this up. This should be easy. Other people have no problem being an early bird and taking care of their body. I’ll never be able to do this. This will never work. If can’t make it to day two, then there’s no way I can make it to thirty.
I wanted to quit altogether again. I hated failing so early on. I was overcome with thoughts of how I would always let myself down.
It’s easy to beat yourself up when you have high standards or cling to a specific outcome. Disappointment can simply consume you when you’re already in a negative head space.
When I was in college, I had a professor who created a course for all the stressed and anxious students in my year. The class was called Jane Austen and the Buddha. In this class, we had to read Jane’s novels and figure out how the heroines put into practice Buddhism’s core values. One of the most important lessons I learned from this class was the importance of mindfulness in any situation.
Mindfulness is, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” In short words, it means the act of being in the present moment.
In my experience, the temptation to give up or resign yourself to defeat is usually due to some kind of worry about the past and/or the future. Today, I obsessed over my disappointment with myself and worried about a domino effect for the next few days. I was sure that tomorrow would be a repeat. I guess, in a cliché way, I was preparing for my future to be bleak.
“… the temptation to give up or resign yourself to defeat is usually due to some kind of worry about the past and/or the future.”
Later on, I finally realized that I had psyched myself out by jumping to so many conclusions. I was worried about tomorrow when, in fact, I should’ve just accepted that I started the day later than I would have liked—and then just let it go.
Breathe in. Breathe out. A mistake was made. So what can you do now? What can you do right in this moment to get back on track or make yourself feel good again?
It takes 30 days to for a habit to become routine. But who said you can’t have a practice period? Who said you have to be so strict with yourself? Be proud of the progress you’ve made even if it’s off schedule.
Although I didn’t plan to tidy up my apartment today, that’s what I ended up doing. After I was done beating myself up with critical thoughts in the early afternoon, I sat down to focus on myself. My boyfriend told me he had friends coming over late at night. Obviously, we would have to hide the mess.
I stared at the laundry building up by the front door and thought, I miss that special clean smell that detergent leaves on clothes. The memory was enough for me to finally gather up months of dirty clothes and find a laundromat. I felt so much better about myself once I found a productive project to convince me to take advantage of the rest of the day.
Afterwards, I let small projects bounce off one another. With my laundry clean, it made sense for me to start to reorganize the closet so I had more room to hang up my clothes. With no more clothes on the ground, I could clean the wood floors. New space started to open up all around me.
The irony was—as soon as I freshened up the area around me, I felt motivated again to take care of my body. I wanted to match the beautiful room I helped put in order.
I’m glad things didn’t go as planned today. And when I look around at my clean apartment, I’ll remember that it’s okay to adapt plans. It doesn’t mean I failed my goals. It means I took a different route to get to my destination.
“…I’ll remember that it’s okay to adapt plans. It doesn’t mean I failed my goals. It means I took a different route to get to my destination..”
Don’t hate on yourself when you fail. If something doesn’t go your way, stop. Take in the moment. Accept that you made a mistake and move on.
Live in the present. Find something near you that makes you happy or leaves you lighthearted. Focus on the sounds around you. Find a task that you didn’t notice before needed your attention because you were distracted.
The motivation to not give up on the day might be in view. You just need the time to focus on what’s around you now.