One of the best things about being focussed and working hard is that it builds. You gain momentum. You have been making that small adjustment daily and things haven’t stopped moving forward. It feels great! But all of this forward motion comes at a cost. It takes a lot of mental and emotional toll on a person to constantly fight a bad habit and establish new ones. It becomes easier once the new habit becomes the path of least resistance, but the time it takes to get there is different for every person and every habit. Sometimes, you feel you’ve run out of energy and it becomes harder to fight to keep yourself in check. So what can you do to get back on track?
I believe that being honest with yourself about your fatigue is important. For some reason we feel like we are all superhuman, that we should be able to just start doing something, and if we stop for even a small break we are complete failures. Everyone who fights for positive change in their lives has experienced the mental exhaustion, but its the ones who learn to expect it that can use it to their benefit.
I’ll use exercise as an example as its a goal that many people have. I have always had the desire to exercise daily. It feels good, and pretty much every scientific study shows that daily exercise is beneficial. I used to go to the gym and just work away for an hour or two. It felt great, but after a couple of days I was exhausted and would give up for a couple weeks before repeating the cycle. Later, I would try to go to the gym every other day in hopes of working up to a daily routine. Again, no dice, I would give up after a few weeks or months. I could sustain it longer, but I would still tire out and give up. Now, I’m approaching it differently. I’m exercising every day, for about 5 minutes. I don’t mean that stupidly intense kind of program where the super buff fitness instructor tells you they exercise for 5 minutes a day and then proceed to show you an hour long workout condensed into ‘5 easy minutes.’ I mean a few push-ups, crunches, and squats – every day, it goes back to my article on small changes.
Even with the 5 minutes a day, I still find myself fatigued once in a while, not wanting to do even a little bit. Maybe I’m out with my family for the day or I just want to relax and separate myself from my work life, really let go. It’s more that I’ve used up the fuel in my tank, and I need to step back. It’s the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ philosophy.
I’ve learned to allow myself the break, and there have been about 3-4 days so far this year where I haven’t done any exercise. Now you might be saying ‘wow you’ve exercised every day this year save for 3-4 days, that’s incredible!’ The perfectionist in me doesn’t see that, it sees the 3-4 days as failures. But what I’ve learned is to not give up after a self-proclaimed ‘failure’. Learn to realize that a break is a way to refill our reservoir of mental and emotional energy, a chance to ‘reset’ and then continue on our journey. It makes sure we don’t waste all of the hard work we’ve put in.
The interesting part is that I’ve slowly increased the number of exercises I do each day, and the biggest boosts come right after rest days. This isn’t just true of exercise, but of everything. You may have noticed that since October, I have posted, on average, once per day on this blog. An unbroken streak. But some of the posts have just been images with a quick description. It’s because I needed a break. I kept the streak going, but with almost no effort, and then the next day I came back with a fully refreshed mind and a much more complete post.
So no matter what you are trying to accomplish, let yourself take a break, and treat it as a reset and not a failure, so that when you get going again you will be able to continue along your path instead of feeling like you’re back at the beginning.