What to do when you break the chain
One of my favorite books from 2018 was Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
It is filled with wisdom and golden nuggets showing us how to form good habits (or quit bad ones) but one of the aspects in the book that resonated more with me was about the importance of consistency, probably because I’ve failed so many goals and have quit so many times during my life due to the lack of it.
When we are trying to adopt a positive habit, such as following a healthy diet, going to the gym or reading every day, the main factor of success (or failure) is consistency.
It is the consistency that will allow us to root the habit in our lives and make it almost instinctive.
It is the consistency that will allow us to become what we want to be.
The habit tracker
To help us achieve consistency, a very common tactic is to mark a red cross on a calendar every day that we complete an activity.
The visual effect that you get after a few days or weeks is very motivating. That great chain of red crosses will make us feel really successful.
But then, on a day like any other, life happens and for whatever reason our beautiful current breaks.
What happens then is far more important than you may think.
Broken link = ruined chain?
Is our goal lost? Do we need to start all over from the beginning to form that habit or it’s not even worth restart it at all?
No, this insuccess does not define us.
This misstep does not establish whether we will succeed or whether we will fail, but our next action does.
So, we have two options two deal with it:
Our attitude toward that missing cross in the calendar can be discouraging:
“Since I failed once, it doesn’t matter if I fail again…”
“Trying so hard is worthless, I’ll never be able to stay on track.”
“I don’t have what others have…”
Or we can have a more positive and down-to-earth attitude:
“You know what? Shit happens, I just need to get back on track.”
“Focus on progress, not perfection”
“I won’t let this setback turn into an excuse to give up!”
The truth is that we often get carried away by negative emotions and don’t see things from a wider point of view.
If we focus solely on that little square on the calendar, we can only notice the missing red cross, so our mind projects the feeling of failure.
But if we take a step back we can see the whole calendar and a beautiful sequence of red crosses will come to sight, leading us to the realization that we actually are on a good path.
So getting back on track and proceed with the same motivation is essential.
As James Clear brilliantly explains in the book:
“Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.”
What defines us
Running 15 minutes every 6 months does not make us a runner.
Skipping a “good morning” on a bad day does not make us a jerk.
What really matters is our behavior and attitudes over a reasonable period of time.
It’s all we do with consistency.
We all have bad days, we all make mistakes, we all deviate from our goals at some point in our lives.
But that’s not what defines us.
We are what we do constantly!
And if we can be consistent both in our habits and in getting back on track after each failure, then we are making progress and moving toward our goals.
If you take just one thing from this post let it be this:
Consistency is the key to achieve our goals, either that be through the sequence of successes or by how quickly we get back on track.
It is the speed with which we return to the right course that will decide if we give up or if we continue.
And this will determine if we progress or if we fail.
Whether you use some kind of tracker or not, you should do your best to keep your streak active.
Do the work and you’ll be rewarded by becoming the best version of yourself.
I’m not trying to make this look easy, and I’m not always successful.
Like, I’m on a very good streak on reading and writing every day, but I’m failing miserably on my 5-times-a-week gym workouts.
But like I said, focus on progress, not perfection.