I spent last weekend in Napa with friends. It was a great weekend. Relaxed and full of laughs and great wine. Sparkling, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. It was the kind of weekend that can be really hard to shake off when it comes time to get back to work or when Monday morning rolls around.
My Best of Intentions
I had grand intentions of cleaning up, grocery shopping, and fitting in a run after dropping everyone off at the airport on Sunday. Instead, I drove the long way back to the city taking Route 1 along the coast from Half Moon Bay and spent the rest of the evening catching up on the most recent episodes of two of my favorite tv shows.
After moving to San Francisco in June, life has been hectic. I’ve done a lot of traveling, on top of work and a new writing project. (I’ll share more about both soon.) I’ve gone back and forth to Dallas a few times, and taken quick trips from SF to both Chicago and Portland. I love seeing friends and family, but all the travel has left me feeling scattered and ungrounded. Emotionally it hasn’t been easy to leave my family and friends each time I head back to San Francisco either.
I’ve tried hard during the downtime in between trips to counter those feelings by relying on my routines. I’d done pretty well until recently. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen some of my old habits pop back up, and I’ve abandoned some of my new ones. I didn’t automatically lace up my running shoes like I’d taught myself to do when I felt tension in my shoulders.
Some of my routines are pretty new since I’m still getting used to my new surroundings in San Francisco. My new commute. My new apartment. My new office. They aren’t well developed and are easily overcome.
Bad Habits Happens, To Everyone
It’s frustrating when this happens, but the thing is… It does happen. To everyone. According to The Power of Habit, old habits don’t die hard. They actually don’t die at all.
“Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it woud be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”
– Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
So it’s easy to falter… Getting off track happens, and it’s not worth getting worked up over.
Just Start Again…
I’ve gotten better at starting again over the last year or so. I realize that life circumstances can and should take your undivided attention from time to time, whether you want it to or not. The key is just to start again by getting back into your habits, one by one.
“Let me emphasize that: the key to forming a habit is starting each day. What do I mean by starting? If you want to form the habit of meditation, just get your butt on the cushion each day. If you want to form the habit of running, just lace up your shoes and get out the door. If you want to form the habit of writing, just sit down, close everything else on your computer, and start typing. Form the habit of starting, and you’ll get good at forming habits.”
– Leo Babauta, from The Habit of Starting on Zen Habits
In the process, I’ve come to believe that how you think about this to yourself, in your internal dialogue, is the differentiating factor. Remind yourself that you are just starting again; you are not starting over. Starting over implies failure. Starting again is just part of the process. The natural process. As expected.
Despite essentially a three week hiatus from running, when I ran this evening I didn’t start from ground zero. I was just a little slower and a little more winded than usual. I’d been in the habit of running three times a week beforehand. It’s easier to get back in the grove than it was to start running in the beginning. My muscle memory is still fresh, and it kicks into gear quickly. It’s much easier to start again, than it is to start over.
As Goes Monday, So Goes the Week
I knew that I didn’t have much energy left on Sunday evening, but I since I was going to get back on track this week no matter what, my focus was Monday. I find that how my Monday plays out is indicative of how the rest of my week will too.
“I challenge you today to start looking at Mondays differently. It’s not the start of a long week. It’s not the worst day of the week. Monday is the most important day of the week, so do it right…”
– Steve Kamb, Always Dominate Mondays on Nerd Fitness
I couldn’t agree more. Monday has become a very important deadline for me. I may get off track by the time I get to the weekend, but Monday is when I reset and start again with extra focus. I want healthy food in the kitchen for meals and snacks. I want clean clothes ready for the week. I want to fit in a solid workout. And, I want some quiet time where I plan for and make sense of the week ahead.
That’s the best case scenario, and when I’ve gotten off track focusing any and all of on those habits one by one is a good way to get back on track.
What seems to work for you?
A Slight Caveat: It was actually Tuesday by the time I published this post, but that shouldn’t affect the underlying premise!
Photo: from Iron Horse Vineyards at their outdoor tasting room. Healdsburg, CA.