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How to Bounce Back from a Slipup

Shhh, I have a secret to tell you: You’re a human being, and you’re going to screw up sometimes.

You’re going to eat the burrito instead of the grilled fish. You’re going to stare at a screen instead of going for a jog. You’re going to snap at a loved one instead of taking a few deep breaths.

As far as I can tell, there are three ways to deal with this harsh reality. One is to beat yourself up about every single missed workout, living in a perpetual state of stress and anger. Two is to avoid doing any kind of self-improvement whatsoever, because if you never strive for anything you can’t fail, right?

But I think option three is where you might want to land: Setting goals and attempting to better your life, but giving yourself a break when you mess up.

If you’d like to try door number three, here are 5 steps to recover from the (inevitable) slipup:

  1. Figure out what caused the slipup in the first place. If you review what caused your indiscretion, you may realize that moments before that new flat screen went onto your credit card, you heard some bad news about your job. Or maybe you and your siblings got into a fight, or you got some scary health news. In other words, you were trying to get your mind off something and trying to make yourself feel better. That’s not the end of the world, and you can certainly keep trying to use other behaviors to make yourself feel better in the future.
  2. Stay present and enjoy the slipup, if you can. If you’re going to watch 236 episodes of Friends instead of exercising, you might as well savor it! Put on your comfy robe, snuggle up with someone you love, and let go of any guilt you have about choosing TV over exercise.
  3. Be kind to yourself! When it dawns on you that you’ve let yourself get away with missing a goal, you’ll probably be upset. Instead of berating yourself, though, say something like “oh yeah, that lady online said it was okay for this to happen sometimes.”
  4. Be kind to yourself! It’s worth saying twice. Plus, if you choose the other road—being unkind to yourself—you may still be ticked off about your overindulgence at the bakery three days later, when really it’s time to move onto step number five.
  5. Pick a plan and move on. Was your goal too over the top? Maybe you need to scale it back. Do you stress out frequently and turn to that old habit you want to avoid? Come up with a list of three to five things you can try instead and give those a whirl. Do you need an accountability buddy to keep you on track? Find someone who has similar goals and keep them on track, too. Would writing down your goals make a positive impact? Get out a notebook or fire up your iPad.

Don’t let one slip up snowball into a permanent rut. You’re only human, after all.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.