Getting back on track after a break can be a challenging task at best. At worst, it can be a routine-ender. Recently I’ve faced this challenge and realized that it’s an experience worth discussion for no other reason than it’s an obstacle all will face at some point. There’s a fine line between a good habit and a bad habit. Whether new routine, or one that has been firmly entrenched in everyday life for years, deviating from routine creates an opening for risk. There is a risk the routine will be changed, or worse…disappear altogether. Getting back on track after a break requires planning and a little discipline (not as much as you’d think).
Getting Back On Track After A Break – Why It’s A Challenge
The adage “people are creatures of habit” did not come to be by accident. More likely it’s based on generation after generation of observation. A routine is something we as humans actively pursue – in doing so, create an outcome we desire. In a perfect world, this would take little time until the new habit replaces old. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. There are constant distractions and obligations which can alter our course with little difficulty. In my own experience, I have found it takes significant discipline to put a new habit in place due mostly to the requirement for active thought. It’s simply easier to let some mental processes run on autopilot. Why it’s a challenge getting back on track after a break is because we have to engage our brains the way we did when the routine was first put into place. In essence, we are re-training our mind. The key reasons the implementation of the routine is at risk is:
- We overestimate our ability to execute the routine as we did prior to the break.
- We understimate the length of time the implementation process will take.
- We are unfairly hard on ourselves after less than stellar inital results following a break.
- There’s no consideration given to dropping expectation levels, at least initially – upon implementing the old routine.
- Depending on the cause for break, a completely different routine may be called for.
Getting Back On Track After A Break – Creating A Plan
Perhaps you’re about to have an extended break or already are in the middle of one, which is causing significant disruption to your routine. If you are and the itch of concern is starting to creep up in the back of your mind, then it’s time to take action. Below is a list of steps which you can use to get back into “the swing of things” as soon as possible.
1) Focus On The Fundamentals
If you are getting back into a routine, take a few minutes to create a list, laying out what steps you had used the first time around to create a successful routine. Trying to focus on too many things at once, especially at the beginning, will put your routine at risk. Keep it simple. Knowing what the few key elements are which you need to focus on will produce the results you want sooner.
2) Set Yourself Up For Success – Baby Steps
Start small. Doing so allows you to create a current benchmark for performance. Whether you are writing a book, or training for a marathon, over-doing it after an extended break will be the shortest path to failure, losing the routine permanently. Why should reintroducing an old habit take any less time than forming a new habit? If left for long enough, the habit is virtually new and should be treated as such. As with the list above, creating benchmarks brings you back to reality. Alternately, they also will provide you something to shoot for. Who knows? A well-deserved break is often what will lead to creating new highs.
3) Consider Your Situation
If you are returning to a routine after a lengthy break, due to accident or injury, you are at higher risk of failure for routine implementation, often for more than one reason. The primary reason is, of course an unrealistic expectation that performance will be at pre-injury/accident levels, coupled with a desire to feel “normal” again. By normal, the feeling is not only physical but psychological. After an accident or injury, confidence will be called into question…especially because a primary source for happiness in our lives, which gives us our sense of purpose, has been unceremoniously extricated. When first testing the waters while on the mend, the desire to feel like the days of old can be overwhelming. Such desire can lead to pushing limits to the point of re-injury. Even worse, it can lead to permanent injury. Caution needs to be taken under such conditions.
In the case where injury or accident has caused an irreversible or serious enough condition that previous routines can no longer be performed, extra diligence is required. Before all hope is abandoned, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions:
- Physically, how have I been limited? (I.E. – What can I do/no longer do as a result of injury/accident?)
- What activities am I able to do as a substitute?
- Who can help me achieve this?
- Will pursuing this lead to happiness/personal contentment?
- How can I begin implementing the adjusted routine today?
If you are facing the reality of a temporary or permanent limitation due to injury, take heart – there is more than one way to reach a goal. Activity substitution is the best and most realistic way of achieving long-term goals after injury. Getting back on track after a break is challenging enough. Make it easier on yourself by creating a routine with an activity that is conducive to your current state of being. Ask a friend or friends to join you. You would be surprised how often you’ll have people with spare time on their hands (who may also need a little help finding initative). In considering whether the substituted activity will lead to your personal happiness, it can be answered by asking yourself whether you enjoy the new activity or not. If so, congratulations – you’re well on your to getting back on track after a break. If not, consider what else you can do as a reasonable substitute. There’s always another way around an obstacle.