How To Finally Stop Falling Off Track and Create Lasting Habits
Less excuses, more authenticity. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on the last few months.
Because even though we all have different lifestyles, priorities, and things to do, we can agree on this: we’re all busy. Just in different ways, but we’re ALL busy.
The quarantine has helped me get around to so many of those “I’ll get to it later” and “I’ll do that when I have more time” odds & ends and parts of my to-do lists (yes lists, plural) that always felt a touch out of reach. But still, no matter what’s going on (wedding planning last year, the unexpected commotion that went along with wedding planning, traveling, baseball) I’ve noticed one constant; consistently responding to messages and emails in a timely manner is NOT my strong suit.
I’m an ambivert; I need my “me” time (AKA quality time with Grant) to recharge, relax, and regroup. I don’t like forcing myself to be social when I don’t feel like it, it feels fake. And if I force myself to do something that my heart’s not in, I’m not able to give it my all, do my best work, or put my best foot forward. And I can’t stand not being able to give something 100%.
But I started to think there was more to it than that. When I would get around to some DMs or sit down to catch up on emails, I’d find myself saying “I’m sooooo sorry it took me so long to get back to you, it’s been SO crazy and hectic lately! *lists what’s been keeping me preoccupied and/or draining my energy*” time and time again.
I felt like a broken record. And that’s when I finally understood that I was making excuses. Whatever is going on in my life, while it’s substantial to me, it doesn’t make me different than anyone else. And I’m not saying that in a way that invalidates or downplays my stressors and situations. It’s just that we’re all busy and dealing with our own things.
Even though I was honest in my replies before, it’s like I was using my honesty to disguise the excuses. And that needed to stop. So I’ve been determined to cut the crap and just be honest, authentic, and excuse-free:
“I’m sorry I’m just now getting back to you - I’m trying to get better at responding quicker”
“Hey, there’s been a lot going on but I don’t want to use that as an excuse so just know that I’ve been thinking about you and I’m sorry that I’ve let my personal matters impact you”
“I know I took a while to get back to you, sometimes I take longer to respond because I’d rather wait until I have the time to give a well-thought-out response than rush and respond ASAP just for the sake of responding. Your message is important to me so I waited until I could give you my 100% full focus because you deserve that”
“I’ve really been slacking on emails and messages lately and I’m so sorry. I need to get better at prioritizing.”
*I know I say I’m sorry a lot, I’ve always been like that*
But look at the last word of the last response
That's what it boils down to
It takes putting your ego aside to admit that - and stubbornness and pride are 2 of my stronger (not best) qualities so I know that’s not an easy feat. But just like how all of us are busy? None of us are perfect either.
You can’t hold yourself to the unrealistically high expectation of flawlessly being at your ‘A’ game all the time. Life isn’t a big, competitive game of who can play “go big or go home” the best.
So how do we juggle everything we need, want, and aspire to do all while life is throwing curveballs at us? Like you know those days where your alarm goes off and you just want to crawl under the bed and hide because you have so much to do that it’s like nauseating?? So how are you supposed to painlessly do it all, stay sane, AND prioritize your health on top of it?
These are the things that you do. not. waver. on.
No matter what, they get done.
You know when you’re feeling overwhelmed and pause to remind yourself “breathe, take it one day at a time, one thing at a time”? Think of non-negotiables as the physical aspect of mentally taking it one day at a time; focusing on and accomplishing smaller, manageable tasks that will produce some hefty results in the long run.
Take a step back to reflect on what you struggle with the most, what you REALLY want to get better at, or something that you want (or need) to do that you habitually put off. These are good places to start brainstorming your non-negotiables.
If you try to tackle too much at once, it'll just be stressful and lead to you viewing a healthier lifestyle as something that's stressful, crazy hard, or just too much work. Which it will take work, be hard, and feel stressful at times but that's not the only way it should feel. So before piling too much on, try setting 1 nutrition focused non-negotiable and 1 focused on exercise & activity.
Eating vegetables and fresh fruit 1x per day
Eating a well-balanced breakfast
Drinking more water
Eating better in the evenings (or whenever you usually “fall off track”)
Less take-out and fast food
Doing cardio 3x a week
Spending 5 minutes before lifting to stretch and actively warm-up
A specific yoga pose
Improving your deadlift form
Prioritize self-care more
Build & strengthen your relationship with God
Responding to messages in a more timely manner *cough cough Sami *
Once you have some non-negotiable blueprints in mind, ask yourself HOW you can achieve them:
Fruit & vegetables once a day --> sneak some spinach into a fruit smoothie for a quick breakfast
Drinking more water --> set reminders on your phone or aim to drink X refillable water bottles a day
Eating better in the evenings --> find healthier versions of your favorite midnight snacks
Less take-out and fast food --> eat out 3 times a week instead of 4
A specific yoga pose --> set aside 5 minutes every morning or evening to stretch & work on the pose
Improving your deadlift form --> stop avoiding exercises you’re not totally comfortable with and research, watch videos, and practice X times a week
Prioritize self-care --> what's that look like to you? Hot baths, books, phone-free time? Do that X times a month
More time with God --> try a daily devotional, a gratitude journal, listening to X sermons per month
Responding in a timelier manner --> stop BSing yourself and the people that reach out to you and set aside time each day where you can be intentional, focused, and responsive
Now that you have your specific non-negotiables and how you’re going to carry them out - treat them like you do your teeth. Would you leave the house without brushing your teeth? (I sure hope not lol) so don’t end the day (or week if they’re weekly) without doing your non-negotiables. My mom always said brush the teeth you want to keep when I was little, so don't cheat yourself of your non-negotiables.
Turning non-negotiables into habits
These are some of my big non-negotiables:
X minutes of cardio per week that I split up however fits my schedule best
2 leg days per week (I plan to lift 5-6 days per week but some days I’m too busy, tired, or stressed where it’s not always the best idea to add more stress to my body with lifting so I’ll swap an upper body day for a cardio only day, a light, fun workout, or yoga + cardio but I don’t skimp on my leg days. I may switch around what day I lift legs, but I don’t skip them altogether)
Breakfast and my nightly yogurt bowl - I start and end the day on a positive note with a well-balanced meal that I love
These aren’t all of my non-negotiables, just the major ones. Over time, your non-negotiables will become easier and easier until eventually, they’re subconscious habits. When that happens, then you can start to incorporate new non-negotiables in! And eventually, those daily choices and decisions will accumulate into big, noticeable changes! And that, my friends is how you make lasting, sustainable changes!
Not the whole “it takes 21 days for an action to become a habit” mumbo jumbo. Because even IF that’s true, doing something that we’re already struggling to consistently do for TWENTY ONE DAYS in a row is unrealistic. Even if we manage to make it for the full 3 weeks, we’ll probably be so burnt out by the end that we won’t want to continue the “habit” anymore. And then we’re back to square 1.
Non-negotiables may change
Wait, how can non-negotiables change if they’re something you ~do. not. waver. on.~ ????
Non-negotiables can be used to create habits (like eating better, getting into an efficient routine, or working out more) or to reach goals (lose X% body fat, go down a pant size, bench press X lbs.)
And the goal-oriented non-negotiables are the ones that will most likely change over time. If you want to lean out, you non-negotiable might be to do 20 minutes of HIIT cardio 2x a week or to track your macros and stay within specific ranges. But goals are measurable, attainable, and dynamic; they change, get met, and new ones get set. So it makes sense that non-negotiables change as goals evolve.
One last thing
Life is a crazy, busy, unpredictable whirlwind (think of the pandemic that we’re living in). So please leave room for some ~flexibility~ in your routine. I’m practically the queen of routines so I know it’s easier said than done at times, but just remember that life happens!!
You can’t seamlessly stick to a precise, rigid routine day in and day out.
And that’s when you non-negotiables come into play. They provide you accountability AND wiggle room (just not enough for you to get carried away and slack on what’s important to you). The wiggle room helps you learn when to give yourself leeway. With time, you’ll be able to differentiate if it really, truly isn’t a good day for you to go to the gym or if you’re trying to justify not going with sad excuses because you’re just being tired and a lil lazy (we’ve all been there)
Try a couple of non-negotiables out for yourself and let me know how it goes! I always envied that tantalizing “bALaNcE” I saw people preaching about all over Instagram. I just assumed it simply wasn’t possible for me. But non-negotiables have truly helped me focus on my priorities, avoid that perfectionism rabbit hole, and find the level of balance I once thought to be unattainable!
And I can promise they can do the same for you!