When good habits turn bad

Following your most recent performance appraisal, did you decide that you would run more regular 1:1 meetings with your direct reports, or spend half an hour each morning planning your day or have an afternoon each week working at home to make progress on your long-term projects?

At the beginning of the year, did you resolve to get up half an hour earlier each day, or to walk home at least three nights a week, or to read a new book each month of the year?

If you’re like many of us, those good habits probably stuck for a while.
Then life got in the way.

You were called into the office for an important meeting the day you usually work at home and you never managed to reschedule that day. It was raining on Tuesday night and you didn’t have an umbrella with you so you caught the bus home.

How you choose to react to a break in your habit will determine how you get your good habit back on track and how quickly

One of my clients, let’s call him Mark, has recently had this experience with a business class he signed up to earlier this year. A regular meeting had gone into his diary, it overran and he missed his class. Helpfully, we were already meeting for a coaching session later that week and we were able to work through what had happened. With his permission, here are the three steps we developed together to help him pick up where he left off.

Step one: get over the lapse

Beating yourself up about the lapse doesn’t make it go away. It may even put you off trying again.
Mark quickly identified what had derailed him and caused him to miss his class. He knows why it happened and he knows how he’ll handle it if it crops up again. He sees that this one lapse is not a failure – it’s just a bump in the road.

Step two: get on with your day

Mark could have let his whole day be negatively affected by what happened. Instead, he chose not to allow that to happen, just getting on with everything else he had planned for that day. He didn’t let one broken habit break other habits and routines that he has put in place.

Step three: get back on your habit

Rather than think ‘oh well, now I’ve missed one lecture, I might as well wait until next term and sign up again’, Mark emailed a fellow student to ask for her notes, got in touch with his lecturer and resolved to spend the following Saturday afternoon catching up. He has talked with his boss about the importance of him attending the lectures and they have moved the meeting to earlier in the day so that he can be sure to leave the office on time.

Whether it’s a habit related to your work or your life outside work, these three steps can help you see your lapse from a good habit as a slight detour rather than a roadblock.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: can the three steps help you get back on track with a good habit?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to feel more fulfilled in your career and make plans for a productive and satisfying life, please do email me  and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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