This post originally ran on January 22, 2009. A year later, I’m still struggling to stay motivated, especially after temporary setbacks. Besides, I think we can all use a little encouragement as the novelty of New Year’s resolutions fades.
These days, I’m thinking as much about fitness as I am about finance. I’m still working on losing weight and living healthier, and I’m constantly fighting my vices — with overeating and overspending.
With the novelty and motivation of New Year’s resolutions wearing off, you may find yourself slipping up, too.
One thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how often you fall off the wagon. Everyone lapses. The real test for success is how quickly you rebound.
It seems that too often one little mistake can snowball into a catastrophe. In a moment of weakness you eat a donut or splurge on an expensive pair of shoes. Suddenly you’re thinking, “Well, my diet/budget is blown for today. I might as well make it count.”
That kind of logic led me to gain more weight and rack up more credit card debt in college than I care to admit.
This time I’m trying something new — forgiving myself and starting over. Not tomorrow or next week or after the weekend, but right now, right after I realize I’ve made a mistake.
After overeating or overspending, I used to bargain with myself. If I ate too many pieces of pizza on Friday night, then the weekend was shot, so I might as well wait until Monday to start over. In college, I used the same bargaining process when it came to my finances. “Starting next month I’m not going to use my credit card anymore,” or “After this weekend, no more eating out.”
The truth is, one mistake never really derails anyone. The real catastrophe comes from the self defeat that follows that one mistake. If you decide to give up for the rest of the day, week, or month, then you only make a bad situation worse. Your one mistake becomes a major derailment.
When you give up, even temporarily, after every little mistake, you find yourself feeling defeated a lot of the time.
Next time you find yourself straying from any goal, don’t put your efforts on hold. Don’t wait to start over. Do it right away.
Once you’ve eaten the donut or spent too much money, there’s nothing you can do to take it back. Don’t dwell on it and let one mistake derail you. Instead, wipe the slate clean, and move on.