Do you feel like you are riding a rollercoaster when it comes to achieving your goals in life? One moment you’re feeling thrilled and on top of the world. Then the next you’re plunging headfirst into laziness and a sense of existential dread. All you know is that you need to get back on track.
As a frequent passenger on this same roller coaster, I can full-heartedly relate to this feeling. But it’s time to jump off the roller coaster and regain your equilibrium when it comes to your life aspirations. Getting your life back on track will ease your anxiety and remind you what it feels like to be juiced about life again. Because if you keep letting your life spiral out of control, you are sure to end up in an undesirable destination.
In this article, I will give you steps that you can take today to get back in the driver's seat of your life, so you can get things heading in the right direction.
Why it’s okay to get off track
Let me just start by saying that I have yet to meet a human who never messes up. Mistakes are part of what makes our human experience beautiful.
But as much as my experience counts for something, it’s nice to know that the research backs up my opinion. A study in 2017 found that organizations learned more from their failures than their successes and that the magnitude of the failure was actually a good predictor of future success.
I also think it’s important to highlight that you can get off track and hop back on as many times as you need to. This is something I have to remind myself of on a consistent basis because sometimes it can feel like I spend more time off the right track than on it.
What if you decide to not get back on track
And while it’s okay to get off track here and there, you don’t want to stay off track forever.
If you opt to avoid getting your life back on track, you could potentially fall into a trap called learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness can be thought of as an extreme case of playing the victim card. You think there is nothing you can do about your situation, so why even bother.
The research shows that if you let this sense of learned helplessness linger for too long you are likely to develop depression. And not only are you more likely to develop depression, but a study found that you are also prone to experience greater levels of fear and anxiety if you allow learned helplessness to stick around.
5 Steps to Getting Back on Track
If you’re ready to stop riding the hot mess express when it comes to your life, these 5 steps are here to guide you back to exactly where you want to be.
1. Stop to make sure you’re on the right track first
Now this one may sound obvious. But as someone who has run down the wrong track for way too many miles, hear me out.
Before you get back on to the track you were on, ask yourself if that track takes you where you want to go. Sometimes when we get off track it’s not because we’re lazy or something happened to suddenly make our momentum stop.
Sometimes you’re off track because you were never really motivated or inspired to take that path anyway. So it’s time to choose a new path!
This was most clear to me when I first began undergrad. I was not motivated to do my homework or study the way I needed to initially.
It took my roommate stepping in to tell me maybe I should switch my major for me to realize that it wasn’t my ability to learn and study that was the problem. I was simply on the wrong track and needed to find the major that really got my engine revving instead.
2. Write things down
This is a habit that has genuinely taken me years to develop. In my early twenties, I always assumed my fresh brain could remember everything I needed to do and easily squeeze it all in.
The older I get, the clearer it becomes that I need a written list of what I am going to do and when I am going to do it.
When I get off track, it’s usually because I don’t have a solid plan. And a solid plan starts with an understanding of what you need to do to get to where you want to be.
You can’t make a goal of losing ten pounds, but then be surprised when it doesn’t happen when you didn’t have a gym routine or a meal plan. So if you have a goal and you haven’t made the progress you want, write out all the things you need to do to get back on the horse and you’ll find yourself one step closer to success.
3. Have an accountability partner
Sometimes we go rogue when it comes to our goals because we give ourselves permission to slip.
If you’re like me, you find yourself constantly saying eating one more cookie at 9 pm isn’t going to be the end of the world. While it may not end the world, it certainly isn’t getting me any closer to my fitness goals. And if I’m being honest, rarely do I eat just one more cookie.
A great way to get yourself back on track and keep yourself there is to verbalize your goals and aspirations to someone you trust to hold you accountable.
For me, my husband has become the cookie gatekeeper. I let him know that I needed to stop my mindless munching late at night. And unfortunately, he is a really great guard of the cookie jar.
4. Embrace a growth mindset
When I get really off track, the hardest part for me to get back on track is not to get stuck on the fact that I failed.
I remember one time I was following a strict exercise regimen that was 12 weeks long. At week 5, my work schedule took over and I didn’t complete the workout one day as specified.
I was so discouraged that I just decided to stop doing the program for the rest of the week. But what I totally dismissed was that within those 5 weeks I had set a personal record for 3 of my strength training lifts.
Falling off track is going to happen. I am 100% convinced that it is part of being human.
But if you can learn to embrace a growth mindset and see how you are learning and growing even when things don’t quite go as expected, then you are going to succeed in the end. And it will be so much easier to get back on board if you adopt a mindset that is prepared to learn from the good and the bad.
5. Design your environment to support your goals
You might not even be set up for success if your environment is designed in such a way that you are destined to fall off track.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. About six months ago, I decided I needed to make it a habit to wake up earlier.
But I used my phone as my alarm and I set it right next to my bed, so when it went off in the morning I simply hit snooze and floated back off into dreamland. One snooze turned into two snoozes. And I’m sure you can guess how the rest of that story went.
It wasn’t until I made it a point to set my phone on my dresser across the room that I was able to start waking up early. Simply switching the location of my phone so that I had to get out of my bed to turn off the alarm made it so much easier to stay on track with this goal.
If you’re looking to lose weight, change your environment and don’t keep junk food in the house. If you’re looking to paint more, make all of your painting equipment visible and easy to access.
These little changes to your environment can go a long way in helping you stick to the behaviors and habits you want to cultivate.
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I’m a thrill-seeker, so I get the appeal of riding a roller coaster. But when it comes to your life, trust me when I say that the smooth boat rides with all the cute little characters will leave you with way less anxiety and fear. If you follow the five steps in this article, you can ditch the loopty loops and find your way back to the track that leads you to a life of smiles and satisfaction.
Have you gotten off track lately? Are you ready to get back on track? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!