When it comes to creating habits, you're only ever one choice away

"Jeez, I blew it!  I (fill in the blank: binged/skipped the gym/lashed out at my partner…) again."

Making a change and getting a new habit to stick can be hard.  Especially in the early days.  Enter a moment of stress, exhaustion or emotional strain and poof!  Suddenly, the early motivation we had to change has gone out the window and we disappointingly find we have returned to our old ways.

In such moments its common for our mental self-talk to turn negative, to tell us that we were fooling ourselves about the possibility to change, that we’re too weak, or that we’re just not cut out for this new way of being.  

If you’re reading this right now, you probably don’t need me to point out that mentally berating yourself is not the answer.  Channeling your precious mental energy into defeatist thoughts will only serve to make you feel crappy and cause you to sink further into your comfy, old habits.

Instead, consider this: you are only ever one choice away from getting back on the proverbial wagon.  

This is a powerful perspective shift because creating that new habit doesn’t seem so out of reach now, does it?

Of course, it works both ways.  You’re also only ever one choice away from falling back off the wagon, too.  So how can you increase the chances that you’ll make the choice that keeps you on track with your goal?

It may seem counterintuitive at first but this is a situation where thinking negatively can provide big benefits.  By considering the obstacles that have kept or might keep you from sticking with your new habit, you are able to come up with a plan for how to handle them. 

A simple planning technique is to create a relevant if-then statement for your situation.  If-then statements have the following structure: If (obstacle), then (how you will respond).

For example, if you’re trying to cut sugar out of your diet, you might be worried about being presented with pies and cookies at upcoming holiday parties.  In this situation, your if-then statement might look like this: "If someone offers me a slice of pie, then I will politely say, 'No, thank you.’"

If you’re working on remaining composed during disagreements with your partner, your if-then statement might be something like: "If I notice I’m starting to feel angry, then I will take a deep breath - in for six counts, out for six counts."

Having this simple plan in place can help you successfully respond to obstacles when they do arise.

And remember, no matter what happens, you’re only ever one choice away from getting back on track.