I’ve failed at creating habits in the past. I’ve failed a lot, I should say.
My most common trigger to fail a dietary habit would be overestimating my mistakes. I’ll explain.
A few years ago I decided to try removing sugar from my diet: my goal was to not eat refined sugar at all for 30 days. I wanted to see the health benefits that some people praised so much, and the key there (in my mind) was to do it 30 consecutive days.
Things were going relatively fine, but at day 3 or 4 (during the famous “keto flu”), I ended up eating a piece of chocolate cake at a party. At that time, my immediate reaction to cases like this would be one of these two:
- “Damn, I failed! 30 days is too much anyway. Screw this!”
- “Damn, I failed! Since I already screwed up today, I might as well eat a little bit more and drink some soda. I’ll get back to the diet tomorrow.”
Neither of them is helpful. What’s the problem? Well, they are binary: if I ate chocolate cake, I failed; there’s no middle ground, it’s either failure or success.
What I do now when this happens (and it still happens most times I’m trying to create a new habit) is to intercept those reactions and immediately think the following:
“It’s OK, but it doesn’t mean I have to make it worse by doing more of it. What can I do to decrease the odds of this happening again?”
Try to notice those reactions and try to replace them with something more rational and less absolute, less “all or nothing.” This is not about success or failure, it’s about learning and improving – even if it’s just a little bit.