By Leo Babauta
Earlier this month, I challenged you, the readers, to join me in setting and achieving a single goal in the Zen Habits March Challenge. Step 1 of this Challenge was to create a plan, and Step 2 was to report your progress. Step 3 was to evaluate your progress.
We’re now almost three weeks into the Challenge, and it’s about that time when many people start facing obstacles or flagging motivation. Every habit change or goal quest usually come in a few different stages. First stage is the first few days, when it can be difficult to change your habit, but you usually have enthusiasm in those first few days, so it’s possible to overcome this initial inertia. Second stage is getting past the first week, which can also be difficult, but once you do this, it usually gets a little easier, and you have some momentum carrying you along. But the third stage comes at around the second or third week (usually around 14-21 days, although it can vary). This is a critical stage — it’s make it or break it time. This is when we face some kind of obstacle — a birthday party or Thanksgiving, for example, if we are trying to stay away from unhealthy food. Or we may face a crisis in motivation for some reason or other.
If you are going through this, it can be overcome. And here’s the bright side: if you can overcome this crisis (and you can!), your chances of success are huge. You will come through this critical stage nearly at the end of your month-long challenge, and once you get past a month, it gets much easier.
How do you get through the third-week crisis? Revitalize yourself! That’s right — infuse some life into your goal program. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
- Set a big reward for yourself. If you make it through this third week, allow yourself an awesome prize. Something you’ve been wanting for some time. Give yourself a great reason to succeed.
- Get help. Not psychiatric help (although a few of us may be in need of this) but help from friends and family members, co-workers, or people online. If we feel a drop in motivation, we need to ask someone to give us encouragement, right away! You can always email me (zenhabits (at) gmail.com).
- Renew your public commitment. Similar to the above tip, this is almost like starting all over again. Tell the world about your goal. Put it on your blog. Renew your determination. Print out a poster and put it up on the wall. Find a motivating picture. Look for inspiration online.
- Get a goal or workout buddy. You may have been doing this on your own so far, but at this point it may be good to join forces with someone else with a similar goal. Help motivate each other. If you have someone else who is waiting for you, you’ll be more likely to make that appointment.
- Just do it. If you feel that urge to quit, push out that negative thought. Replace it with a positive one: I can do this! And just do it. Don’t think about it — just get out and do it. Don’t hesitate, do not pass Go, just do it. Don’t accept any excuses or rationalizing.
Now that I’ve said this, I’m going to make a confession: I’ve had to take another break in my triathlon training due to illness. Actually, I never completely got over my last illness, and the bout this past week has been worse than ever. And it nearly kills me not to exercise, now that I’m so used to it. But my resolve hasn’t wavered — I will be back on the road this week, cycling and running (and swimming in the pool). I just took a little break.
Now, in the comments, all you March Challengers, please report your progress! And let me know if your enthusiasm has been down or if you’ve faced any obstacles. Revitalization time!