Three Words to Get You Back on Track After an Accidental Indulgence
It's Friday night and you're out for dinner and as usual the waiter brings over a basket of dinner rolls. Normally you're all over that and jump in but you've just started a new diet and exercise plan so you decide you're going to skip them.
Then a thought starts to creep in... "One probably wouldn't hurt, right? Besides, I'm out with friends, I should have fun!" Then the other side pipes up: "No... maybe I shouldn't, I really do want to get in shape for once!"
After a bit of back and forth you give in. "What's one bite going to hurt?" as you bite in the taste overwhelms you and before you know it you've finished three rolls complete with a healthy serving of butter.
"Ugh... I totally planned on skipping those! Man... I suck! Why do I do that!?!?"
"Well... since I didn't make any progress today I guess tonight's a write-off, I might as well enjoy myself tonight before I get back on my diet tomorrow morning."
Then, the next morning your friend calls and asks if you're interested in breakfast: "Well I already went off track last night, so I might as well enjoy the weekend before I get back on track Monday, right?"
"Sure" you say and proceed to not only have a full plate of waffles and syrup at breakfast but also go through a weekend full of indulgence. "I'll start fresh on Monday!"
As this cycle repeats itself week after week and month after month, you get more and more frustrated and disappointed with the lack of progress... "Why can't I do this?", "I'm such a glutton!", "I'm hopeless.", "I'll never get there!".
Just as consistent small positive action over time will lead to positive results, consistent small (or large) negative actions will lead to negative results over time.
Now, what if I told you there was something you could tell yourself every time you had a temptation that would completely change your outlook?
What if I could give you a tool that would stop that weekend long binge in it's tracks and put you on the road towards consistent positive actions?
What if you could stop after that 'accidental indulgence' of the 3 buns at dinner or after eating more than you intended at dinner on Friday and spend the rest of the weekend on track and making progress?
How much would limiting the damage to that extent contribute towards reaching your goals?
The answer is significantly!
(This is especially true if you use our 3 Simple Tools to Allow You To Eat Whatever You Want at Social Events!)
So what's the solution? It's memorizing a specific mantra. (I'll tell you what that specific mantra is in a minute.)
Now, if you've been through our Be Your Own Coach Online course, you'll know that this is one of the tools we love to use for mastering mindset and encouraging perseverance and consistency!
A mantra for our purposes can be any phrase or question that reminds you of some operating principle that you want to live by or of a commitment that you've made to yourself.
It can also be a universal truth that is easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Quotes are often great to use as mantras.
Some examples we've incorporated ourselves and shared with clients are:
"Progress not perfection" (Meaning as long as you're progressing you'll get there eventually)
"Fail better" - Sam Beckett (Meaning each failure is just a chance for learning and improvement)
"I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work" - Thomas Edison (Again, failure is just a chance to learn)
"It's okay to be discouraged, it's not okay to quit." - Ryan Holiday (I especially like this one - it acknowledges human emotion, while still encouraging right action)
Tim Ferriss (who's concepts have strongly influenced a significant portion of our practices) is also a big promoter of mantras, although he doesn't necessarily identify them as such. Some examples I've incorporated from him while building our business are "just finish something", "if it's not a 'hell yes', it's a no" and "focus on the important few and ignore the rest."
These have been invaluable in keeping me focused on the most important projects while building our business and avoiding the temptation of jumping at every new exciting idea that comes along. (I've got an entire folder of new ideas I've had to say no to in order to make any bit of prospect on the projects that are most important to our success!)
So what is the mantra that I've been teasing up until this point? It's a simple question to ask yourself:
Phrased as an action, "Doing [blank] will bring me one step closer to my goal."
Shortened even more, it can become:
Now, before we move on, let those sink in and picture yourself asking yourself that question, or reminding yourself of that mantra in the face of your temptations.
It is so powerful because it brings you back to your goal and allows you to give power to small insignificant decisions that add up over time.
It allows you to bring yourself into the moment, and realize the significance of accumulating those small consistent good decisions.
So back to the example:
Armed with this mantra, you now have a different response when given the prospect of having a bite of the buns.
That same thought still creeps in: "One probably wouldn't hurt, right? Besides, I'm out with friends, I should have fun!" And, as in the first example the other side pipes up: "No... maybe I shouldn't, I really do want to get in shape for once!"
The difference, however is that this time instead of giving in with the "What's one bite going to hurt?" excuse, you apply your mantra:
"By skipping those buns I'll be one step closer to that flat stomach or 6 pack I've always wanted!"
"Besides, I usually feel heavy when I eat too much and I don't even really like bread! If it wasn't in front of me I wouldn't even eat it!"
Then, encouraged by your good choice, you continue on your dinner and your weekend with great success and before you know it you're at your goal!
"It's not that simple!" you object.
"I don't have the willpower to resist bread! I LOOOOVE BREAD!!!"
So, let's try that again... this time assuming you give in to the bread... Once again, the taste overwhelms you and before you know it you've finished three rolls with butter.
Normally your response may be to say "Well... I guess tonight's ruined, I might as well enjoy myself tonight before I get back on my diet tomorrow morning." but now you're armed with your mantra of "One step closer" to break out of the all-or-nothing mindset.
So instead of saying "Tonight's ruined" and going hog-wild for the rest of your dinner, and subsequently the rest of your weekend, you tell yourself:
"Well, that's too bad that I ate those buns, BUT if I get back on track for dinner I'll be 'one step closer' to my goals than if were to wait until tomorrow morning to get back on track."
"Besides, if I stop now, and I only eat to 80% full at dinner, those 3 buns I accidentally ate won't even have much of an impact!"
"Also, I'm not a huge fan of the potatoes with dinner, so maybe I'll skip those and treat the buns I ate as my starch with dinner!"
Then, the next morning your friend calls and asks if you're interested in breakfast. This time, instead of that full plate of waffles, you get a couple of eggs and eat a small waffle with just a bit of syrup and again stop at that 80% full point.
Not only that, but because you felt so good about what you did at dinner, you ended up waking up early and hitting the gym for a great weight lifting workout before breakfast, sending that breakfast waffle straight to your muscles!
After those 3 victories, you're filled with confidence and the rest of the weekend goes off without a hitch! You even manage to get to sleep nice and early on Sunday to wake up fresh and ready for the week!
By Monday morning you've now got 3 more days of progress under your belt and instead of waking up dreading the struggle of "getting back on your diet" you are already on a roll and you can save that willpower and energy for other things.
As this cycle repeats itself week after week and month after month, you get more and more skilled at shifting your mindset and closer and closer to your goals. Sure there are other obstacles along the way, but before you know it, you've reached your goal and now been maintaining it for 6 months!
For extra credit...
Along with that mantra, and the ones I have mentioned above, there are many other great examples out there.
As far as habits go, Gretchen Rubin (who literally wrote the book on habits) has a great PDF download with some of her favourite mantras for habits and behaviour change here.
All 10 mantras in that PDF are great, but my favourites are "What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while" (Consistency!), "Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong." (Sustainable systems); and "Focus on actions, not outcomes." (Focus on the process.)
Jill Coleman, one of our favourite promoters of mastering mindset for sustainable fitness and body transformation and a definite mentor for Rach and I when it comes to mindset, has used "There's always more where that came from" as her personal mantra throughout this past year as a reminder to herself to live in an abundance mindset. (You can read more about abundance mindset and gratitude here on Jill's blog and here on our site.)
And then lastly, a great mantra from one of our Be Your Own Coach Online clients (and my sister-in-law) Becky: "Just pull yourself together and go workout."
Have a good week!