Twelve days into creating the new early morning habit, a familiar obstacle came into view: a break in the routine. It can happen for a number of reasons (in my case it was a two-day trip to see friends) but when it comes it can be surprisingly disorienting. It’s almost unavoidable to begin with, so don’t be hard on yourself when it happens, take a deep breath, and get back into your routine as soon as you can. The longer the break, the more difficult it becomes to find your way back.
You will probably go through the experience numerous times in the process of creating a new habit, but just keep going. Every time you lose your way, begin again. Eventually, you’ll reach the logical conclusion that the best way to proceed is to give yourself no choice at all but to do whatever you have decided is how you wish to live your life.
In my experience, after various attempts over the years to establish a daily exercise routine, the most common break was always the reward I gave myself for doing well. After a certain number of consecutive days, I would give myself a day off. More usually, it would be a weekend – a classic move because the weekend seems to offer a natural, familiar and accepted break.
Unfortunately, the reward was so often counterproductive because, come Monday morning, I would find it too easy to give myself another day off. Three days easily became four; and a fifth meant that it wouldn’t be long before the weekend, which heralded the familiar commitment to start afresh on Monday. It’s funny how a simple reward – something meant to honour achievement – can so easily derail further accomplishment.
Sometimes, the break is enforced; but even there, if you look closely, you’ll probably find an excuse or a justification for skipping a day or two… or seven. Holidays are as classic an example as weekends. (Almost a week after my two days away, I am still not back into my early morning routine.) Again, don’t be hard on yourself; it’s a natural part of the process. Fortunately, the more often you go through it, the clearer the realisation becomes that it takes more effort to stop and start than it does to keep going.
Although the early morning routine has suffered, the exercises are still being done. Over the past 1,692 days I have carried out some form of exercise routine every day in a variety of places and conditions of health. After a surprisingly low number of days, the desire to keep the sequence going created a growing understanding that, ‘Come what may, regardless of how I do it, my exercises are going to get done today.’ When that mentality is present, the planning takes care of itself, the likelihood of any break disappears, and eventually the routine becomes a habit.