Authors’ note: in this article we go over some tested tips on how to get past dips in motivation. If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love joining us for our live Q&A session, Nerding Out on Willpower, later this week!
Let’s talk about something that everyone knows but isn't fun to admit: changing your habits is hard. You’re going to struggle. You’re going to stop following that awesome workout routine you found on YouTube because you don’t care for it anymore. You’re going to stop practicing your Spanish lessons because you aren’t improving as fast as you thought. You’re going to stop meditating for 30 minutes every day, because well, it hurts to meditate for 30 minutes a day, and you feel like a vegetable after.
We call this dip in motivation the Habit Hangover. It’s something that every person who’s ever tried to build a new habit has experienced. It happens when the honeymoon phase of any new habit change is over.
You wake up one day and realize keeping yourself on track with your new habit feels like a chore. And that’s a problem. The Habit Hangover is a danger zone because it’s easy to start resenting yourself for not working on your habit with the same amount of enthusiasm as when you started.
So how can you get back on track? How can you make the habit personally meaningful again? After working with hundreds of coaching professionals and thousands of clients, we know some suggestions for helping people like you get back into the game.
4 Tips (And One Nuclear Option) for Getting Past the Habit Hangover
Below are four ways (but not the only four ways) you can get past the Habit Hangover.
1. Remember that dealing with the Habit Hangover is a necessary part of your journey. You have multiple (valid) priorities in your life. After you start working on a new habit, you start remembering them. And you start forgetting the reasons why you wanted to change in the first place. The good news: You now have the opportunity to learn from your experience about what you actually want. The bad news: There’s work ahead. What were your original reasons for building that new habit? How do they mesh with other important priorities in your life? “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards” – Søren Kierkegaard.
2. Acknowledge any negative feelings you might be feeling. They are normal. Karen Rossler, Supreme Czarina of Strength and Awesomeness at Sisu Strength Lab, likes to remind her clients that “the Habit Hangover is normal, and that I, too, have felt and continue to feel it at times. Being frank about how you’re feeling can help you get back on track. Change is hard.” Instead of resisting your experience, trust it. Any frustration, boredom, or impatience you’re feeling might be giving you useful clues on how to adjust your approach. “We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed” – Carl Rogers.
3. It’s always an experiment. Jean Blomo, who helps busy people commit to simple and sustainable healthy habits, says “there’s no ‘right’ way or ‘better’ way, there is only your way.” You might need to change tactics. And that’s okay. Think about how you might want to adjust your habit. What’s working? What’s not working? How do you know? Maybe you need to switch to a different habit. Remember, everything is optional. “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal” ― Friedrich Nietzsche.
4. Having the courage to aim low, but often, is the key to building momentum. Ryan Steenrod, Owner at Rebell Strength & Conditioning, has some sage advice: “Focusing on setting small, manageable expectations is truly the key to habits. One thing I learned is not to worry too much if I forget. Move on and do a little better each day. You will begin to create a snowball effect that runs past your goal.” As you gain confidence in your ability to pivot and try new tactics, your momentum will trump everything.
5. Then there’s the Nuclear Option: Build the habit with someone else. Talk to someone who’s already built the habit you want to build. Ask them how they got past the Habit Hangover. Then recruit a friend to build the habit with you. Don’t know how? You can use these three conversation starters to recruit support from a friend. As Susan Ogilvie, Head Coach at SO FIT Wellness reminds us, “the accountability to another person can really help you get through the Habit Hangover.” Finally, Chuck Osswald, a coach who helps people build new lifestyles one habit at a time, says “you don’t need to have a groundbreaking insight every time to share. It’s so helpful just to get into the habit of sharing progress with someone else.”
Changing habits is hard. Your reasons for doing a habit can change after you start, and that’s okay. The Habit Hangover is a real and common experience. We’ve shared with you five five techniques for beating it and getting back on track.
But we’re curious to hear from you: how have you beat the Habit Hangover in the past?