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The Myth of Fresh Starts: How to Stay ‘On Track’

path through snow

There is a culture of wanting ‘fresh starts’, usually focusing on making new choices.

Most of us have experienced ourselves, or someone we know saying “oh, well I’ll start again tomorrow / next week / in the New Year” when that person has made a choice that does not fit in line with their overall goal.

People have a few ways of describing behaviour, but today I want to think about ‘falling off the wagon.’

Firstly, we have control over our actions.

Of course we have desires and fears, but in any one moment, most of us have at least some level of choice and control over what we are doing.

Part of that decision might be about facing the fact we’re no longer a five-year-old, and that actually we know better than doing this. We can control our impulses and desires, and actually, writing that book for five minutes a day will lead to a finished book in a year or two. Walking half a mile a day will support a level of fitness that allows you to run for a bus in 6 months time.

Sometimes, the longer-term gains are just worth that 5 minute decision today. 

Equally, we don’t need to pick a specific time to get back on track — if I’ve just had a chocolate bar before lunch, I can immediately go grab a glass of water and a salad to counter some of that, and to fill me up before I let the hunger control my next eating choice. You can get back on track immediately, and in a week’s time, that chocolate bar won’t even matter.

Every single choice can move us towards our goals, or away from them.

My personal choice is to “not make two ‘bad’ choices in a row.” If I just skipped a workout, I’ll go grab an apple instead of crisps. If I didn’t write in my lunch hour, I’ll go home and write for an extra ten minutes instead of watching television. If I had a salad, I can relax about taking a sweet from a colleague for their birthday.

And finally for today, to quote a friend “just because you’re not on the wagon doesn’t mean you can’t still walk the road.”

Being Realistic

It may be that life is full-on right now and you feel your potential self is decades away. You can’t flutter from productive writing hour to salad to social evening with friends… You may not be in that flow of progress, but thinking about the maths, each positive choice adds up, faster than a negative one.

For those interested, get on my newsletter to find out more about “the power of tiny gains”.

Simplified, the main number thrown around is that across a year, where staying the same is equal to 1.0:

  • getting ‘worse’ by 1% a day leads to a total of 0.03 (0.99 then 0.9801 on day 2, 0.970299 on day 3…)
  • getting ‘better’ by 1% a day leads to a total of 37.78 (1.01 then 1.0201 n day 2…)

Each tiny choice will add up. You can make a difference.

Remaining the same on your goal keeps you at 1: stuck.

Those negative choices, moving you backwards from your goals, do add up, but they can be countered with each forward move.

Any “increase” will lead to a total above 1 in a year’s time.

Life happening does not change the fact your deserve to be happy, healthy or your inherent value. You’re an adult: don’t let your inner 5-year-old or the belief that your positive choices don’t matter hold you back.

Things To Do Next…

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