This is often the time of year where we start to wonder how to get back on track. From getting back to the gym and steering clear of bad habits and behaviors to identifying good habits and figuring out what we really want in our everyday schedule, it seems like we are always in a cycle of starting something new, getting off track and deciding how and when to get back on track.
It’s really important to note that this is always the way. We are always in an ebb and flow of being on track. It might not look like that on Facebook or Instagram where everyone there seems to have more willpower, better energy levels and emotions. Not to mention they are always in a good mood on Monday morning. Don’t worry though, you are only seeing the highlight reels in those situations. Let this be a reminder that there is no sense comparing your life or what being on track looks like. It looks different for everyone.
What does getting back on track (or being off track) really mean?
While getting back on track usually refers to coming back to good habits, for me it usually means coming back to me, to my heart. Call it alignment or grounding or shaking off whatever is weighing me down, I have to come back to me before I can come back to anything else.
That means, I have to notice when something is off. For instance …
- I know when I have “nothing to wear” it has nothing to do with the clothes in my closet.
- When I have nothing to write, I know it has nothing to do with words, creativity or imagination.
- I know when I can’t react to someone with patience (even when that person is clearly testing my patience), it has nothing to do with them.
When any of these things are happening, I know I am off track. Something isn’t right. I can’t always pinpoint what’s wrong, but still I move forward and consider these signs little invitations to get back on track … to come back to myself.
What getting back on track usually looks like for me:
When I get off track it means I need to focus on one or more of the following things.
- spending more time moving my body
- prioritizing sleep
- finding more time to spend with friends
- making a list of positive changes I want to consider
- clearly defining or redefining boundaries
Because I simplified my life, and eliminated most of the stress in my life (not all, but most), I’m able to recognize when I’m struggling and get back on track more quickly and easily than I did before.
Some of the stress I eliminated from my life includes clutter, debt, alcohol, a toxic work environment, a big house that required lots of money, time, and attention, and a wardrobe that was always reminding me I would never have enough.
Before I simplified, my go to response to getting off track was more frustration and anxiety, and eventually exhaustion and illness.
Getting off track means something different to each of us, but if we are paying attention, we can feel it in our bones. We know when it’s happening and what we have to do to resolve it. Sometimes it feels easier to make excuses, blame busyness, stress and everything else, but by noticing the early signs, we can avoid the spiral and prevent heartache.
If you’ve been feeling like something isn’t quite right, or that you’ve lost your way or gotten off track, remind yourself about the things that help to bring you back. If you aren’t sure, experiment with new, simple ways to get back on track. Try one of these 10 simple ways to get back on track.
How to get back on track
Use one or more of these 10 ways to get back on track or to maintain consistency.
1. Take a walk. Don’t measure your speed or distance, just walk and connect with the outdoors, and with your heart and soul. Notice your surroundings. What do you see and hear? Notice what’s within you too. Are you feeling rushed or distracted? Stressed or calm? You don’t need to judge or fix anything, just notice it.
2. Call someone who makes you smile. Even if you haven’t talked for awhile, call someone who you enjoy connecting with and/or someone who lifts you up when you hear their voice. Practice being present by showing up for the conversation. Don’t multi-task, scroll Instagram, plan your next vacation or or schedule a yoga class while you are connecting with this person. Show all the way up. This will be good for your nervous system and your relationship.
3. Send a care package. Put a small package of goodies together for someone. Often thinking about someone else is the perfect way to get out of your head and back on track. This might be baked goods for a neighbor or books and chocolate for a friend who is going through a hard time. Another way to help others is to sign up to write letters to isolated seniors here.
4. Change your measuring system. If you are overwhelmed with busyness or to-dos and tend to measure your day or your worth by how much you get done, try measuring more by what’s in your heart and less by what’s on your list. We’ve been programmed to prove our worth by our accomplishments even though we know it doesn’t work. There is always more to do so if we measure and prove like that, we will always feel like we are falling behind. Doing more things does not make you a better person. It makes you a tired person.
5. Create boundaries. When we create boundaries around things that distract us from what matters, our engagement in things we care about becomes boundless. Think about boundaries you may need to set with others and boundaries only you need to honor.
6. Simplify. When you are overwhelmed, stressed, or tired, the solution is almost always … less. Get rid of something, lots of somethings. It’s hard to give something your attention when too many things are vying for your attention. Create space, clarity and more ease in your life by staying focused on what matters and letting go of the rest.
7. Be inspired. Find books, blogs, and other sources of inspiration to help you get back on track. Whenever I’m making a big change, I love listening to podcasts or reading books about the change. When I stopped drinking alcohol I read Holly’s book and Annie’s book. From fitness to simplicity, there are an endless number of podcasts, books, membership programs and other ways to support the changes you want to make in your life.
8. Check in (on your calendar). Schedule a weekly check in every Wednesday or Friday (or a day that works well for you). See how you feel in terms of on track/off track. Do you need a little tune up? Do things need to shift? Or, is everything feeling really good. You don’t have to wait until you are completely derailed to change course or do what you need to do to feel better.
9. Prioritize relaxation. You don’t have to push through all the time. In fact, resting through or relaxing through often gets you there in the same amount of time with none of the stress or strain on your mental health. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and burned out. Rest and relax first. You don’t have to earn your rest. Forget those old no pain, no gain, work hard, play hard messages. See what happens when rest comes first.
10. Be flexible. We often associate getting back on track with motivation, willpower and discipline but the real skill to hone is flexibility. There is so much in life that is out of our control and if we push back with all of our discipline and rigidity, we will break. If we can approach life’s changes with a little more flexibility, instead of breaking we can can bend instead. It’s much easier to bounce back from a bend than a break.
How to maintain motivation and stay on track (sort of)
As I mentioned earlier we are always in an ebb and flow of good habits, feeling well, staying on track and falling off track. Instead of trying to stay on track all the time, redefine what “on track” means to you. Remember that slow progress is progress, that consistency is more important than intensity and that you can start over anytime you want (without apology or explanation).
Watch the gap between falling off track and getting back on. This gap an often be filled with negative self talk which tricks your brain into resisting getting back on track for fear that you’ll fall off again. Now that you know you will fall off and that it’s actually part of the process, speak kindly and thoughtfully. Be as gentle as possible to make room for recovery and for dreaming about the way forward.