“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” - Tips for Facing Setbacks

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”

-Alexander Pope

With the coming of spring, and the changing of the seasons, now is as good a time as any to take note of both the good and bad habits in our lives. After all, our daily habits, even the ones we do unconsciously, form our identities. According to https://www.etymonline.com/, “The origin of the word identity comes from French ‘identité’ (14c.), from Medieval Latin ‘identitatem’ (nominative identitas) ‘sameness,’ and ultimately from Latin idem (neuter) "the same". Creating good habits and breaking bad ones is a daunting task. Progress is hardly ever linear, and chances are, the greater the benefit of a good habit, the harder it will be to attain. While in the early stages of creating good habits, one roadblock can completely upend your momentum and throw you off track. This can be discouraging and make it even harder to make a positive change going forward.

Even this week’s newsletter was late. I created excuses, procrastinated, and didn’t hold myself accountable. It only took 3 weeks for me to have a setback. This is why I wanted to make the subject of this week’s newsletter about a few different ways to help you get back on track to achieving your goals, even after experiencing a setback. 

As the quote at the top implies, making mistakes is a part of human nature. Emergencies, sudden changes in schedule, and all of the other aspects that make life hectic can throw you off the path of building good habits. One tip that James Clear gives in his book, Atomic Habits, is to ensure that you do not miss the same goal twice in a short amount of time. For example, if something comes up and you cannot make it to the gym today, it is crucial to make sure you come back tomorrow. 

When you start to take off multiple days in a row, you are reinforcing the habit of not going to the gym. Since there is much more instant gratification and the gym is one of the most delayed forms of gratification, our mind has the tendency of wanting to stay at rest. 

Finding something motivating, like a mantra, song, or quote can be a huge boost as well. This quote from, Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius is one of my favorites:

“Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned to you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”

Basically, to maintain a good habit, it is crucial to avoid making a habit of putting off your goals. 

Another method that I have started implementing this week is to create a daily log in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. The purpose of this sheet is to not only track your daily progress, but also to serve as a powerful reminder that one bad day does not mean the rest of your life will be bad. Typically, after a few weeks of working on this chart, not only will you see that you end up having more good days than bad, but you will also be reminded that even on bad days, there will be brighter days ahead. Here is one such example from Reddit that I modeled my own spreadsheet after. Feel free to tweak it however you like so that it helps you follow your own personal destiny: 


In conclusion, as we try to create good habits or break bad ones, there will inevitably be bumps in the road. It is paramount to not let these bumps get in the way of following through on your goals more than once, as putting off progress multiple times can create a habit of complacency. Another way of looking at it is this: If you have $100, and you make a 50% gain, you will be at $150. However, losing 33% of your progress will bring you right back to $100. If you are able to face adversity, and still deliver on trying to improve yourself that day, this is where our habits become more ingrained, and we achieve the most improvement.

If you are interested in learning more about creating good habits, and breaking bad ones, I highly recommend James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits (www.atomichabits.com). Most of the ideas from this week’s newsletter were derived from his book. 

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