150 days (5 months ago), I decided to explore personal goal setting on a deeper level and started a new 365 sole goal to do some sort of physical exercise every day for a year. This goal was formed after I spent a full year researching, exploring, and experiencing first-hand the power of goal setting, habit formation, perseverance, and resiliency during my successful 365-day booze snooze in 2018-2019. I learned so much from the experience of eliminating something from my life for an extended period of time, that I really wanted to take it a step further and experience a different type of goal setting. This time, my year-long goal would be the opposite of eliminating something from my life; it would be adding something to my daily life.
I am almost halfway through this year-long goal and my journey feels a little different this time. I initiated my goal the exact same way I did with my booze snooze. I determined a need, I identified my key motivators, I wrote a very specific SMART goal, I anticipated my obstacles and pre-planned solutions, and I created the exact same habit tracker I used with the booze snooze. However, despite my goal-setting efforts that were super successful with the booze snooze, I can officially admit to the world that I have NOT been successful in completing physical activity every day for 150 days. I have missed 6 days out of 150.
Did I fail?
Given that my goal is specific and says that I will exercise every day for 365 days, I supposed I technically have failed. Ouch! That is crushing to write. However, I think there is another way to look at this goal without it sounding like I am making “excuses” for my missed days. If I look back at my key motivators and the foundation of my goal, I created it to adjust my healthy habits, NOT to maintain a 365-day “streak”.
Is maintaining a streak an effective strategy?
In the booze snooze, I spent a year exploring if maintaining a streak would effectively change my habits and I think it did. My habit tracker is BEAUTIFUL. It has gorgeous red X’s in every single box! I explained why this strategy worked for me In the blog post, Streaks, “Each checkmark I make is an accomplishment and my brain releases dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure), which basically tells my brain that I want to do that action again.”
Warren Buffett once said, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” For me, momentum and pride was a very powerful motivating force during the booze snooze. Looking back, that streak seemed so much easier to maintain because I didn’t drink every single day of my life. I was eliminating something that I did frequently, but not daily. Essentially, I had built-in “cheat” days.
This time around, I am trying to keep up a daily streak for 365 days for something I have to work at something every single day. i am finding this a bit harder to maintain. I suppose if I was “perfect” then my streak might seem borderline obsessive. The streak would conflict with my overall goal to improve my health habits.
Katie Heaney explains in the article “Why Breaking a Streak Feels So Awful”, that if you are truly trying to sustain a long-term habit and create new routines in your life than maintaining a streak is a less effective route to get there. Because a true “streak” is just about checking the completion box. It doesn’t matter when, where, why or how; all that matters is that you were successful or not. In creating true habits that stick,
Heaney quotes professor and author, Wendy Wood, “For habits to form, we know that there has to be a certain amount of consistency and regularity in the behavior itself,” Healey says, “Habits are, of course, less sexy than streaks…but if what you’re aiming for is effective learning or genuine skill improvement, slow, steady habit-forming is the more pragmatic route to take.”
I broke my streak!
I think one of the reasons that I broke my streak during this goal is that I never created a specific routine or planned out how I would fit exercise into my day consistently. Most days, I find myself going about my day and then just before bed I squeeze in some physical activity just so I won’t break my streak! This is definitely more compulsive than it is physically transforming. Healey suggests that without regularity in time or context, the task/goal is actually harder to remember and maintain. That might explain the very first day I broke my streak. I didn’t consciously choose to not exercise, I simply “forgot” to exercise that day.
For me, the ultimate proof of achievement and habit transformation would be NOT thinking about the goal/streak every day, rather the habit becomes mindless and ingrained in my routine. I got to this point with the booze snooze. It felt like the lifestyle became second nature and I didn’t have to think about it. I need to forgive myself, make room for breaks, and intentionally omit daily exercise periodically to take the focus off the maintaining a streak. This will help eliminate that crushing feeling when I miss a day and the internal mental struggle of quitting because I didn’t check all the boxes.
“‘Failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”- Mary Pickford
I never had to feel what it was like to break my streak in the booze snooze. Lucky me. However, this time I am experiencing “falling down”, so how do I get back up?
Do not accept defeat. In my blog post titled, You are less defeated than you think you are, I explain how author Norman Peale believes, “the greatest secret for eliminating deep and profound self-doubt is to fill your mind to overflowing with faith.” For encouragement, say Phillipians 4:13 out loud multiple times per day, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. Or if you prefer a simple, nonbiblical mantra, try saying “I’ve got this!
Failure is not a cuss word. Do not beat yourself up about the failure. If your patterns of thought are generally negative, there is no doubt that you WILL think many negative thoughts throughout the day. In the Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Peale says that when you think negatively, “you are mistrusting your ability to meet responsibilities or to grasp opportunities” because you are giving negative thoughts power over reality. Instead of looking at it as being “down” flip your mindset. When you are at your lowest… the only way is to go up!
Making a mistake is actually a productive step in a quest as it might teach a new lesson moving forward. Look at the root cause for your failure and try to find something to change as you pick yourself up and continue on. For example, I have learned that unless I start mapping out exactly when I am going to fit in my exercise each day and building a consistent routine, I am always going to fall back on focusing on my “streak”.
Positive affirmations. Focus on the good things accomplished so far and physically write them down. In my goal, instead of focusing on missing 6 days I need to flip my mindset and acknowledge that I have exercised for 144 days. I have been to the gym, I have done work out videos, I have worked out with my husband and daughter, I have gained muscle, I have more stamina, I physically feel stronger even if I don’t look different on the outside.
Believe. Expect. Achieve. The blog post, The Big 3, explains the importance of taking time for self-reflection to help you get to the root cause of your failure or obstacle, the importance of eliminating barriers, setting clear objectives, and relying on faith power. Basically, you need to “Throw your faith over your difficulty, throw your affirmation over every barrier, throw your visualization over your obstacles.” Pick yourself up and keep going!