zen habits : breathe

How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart

‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ ~Winston Churchill

By Leo Babauta

We’d like to think that making positive life changes is a straight line from beginning to where we want to go.

But life has taught us differently.

Experience shows us that you can start a new habit (let’s say working out) and things go great for awhile, and then life gets in the way. Things get messy. Things fall apart. We have a few bad days, or a huge project to work on at work, or relationship problems, or a family crisis, or we get sick.

What do we do when life gets messy and our habits fall to the wayside? Well, give up, obviously.

Actually, I take that back. We tend to give up, because when things get in the way and we mess up on our habits, it’s a little discouraging, even depressing.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are a few things you can do instead:

  1. Breathe. Pause for a moment, breathe, focus on the breath. Know that you are OK, in this moment. Give yourself a moment’s space to think about what’s going on in your life, and who you are.
  2. Give yourself a break. If things like relationship problems get in the way of your habits, allow yourself to pause the habits until you get your life in order and let your mind rest. Rest is important. Get plenty of sleep — this is important, because when stressful things are happening in our lives, our bodies and minds need plenty of rest to heal.
  3. Know that every habit has bumps in the road. There’s never a perfectly smooth path with no bumps. Seriously, no habit goes on a perfectly straight line — at least, none that I’ve created, and none that anyone I know has created. Expect the bumps, and don’t let them end everything.
  4. Allow yourself to experience the messy. Things will always come up, life gets messy, painful things happen. That’s OK. Give yourself the space to experience the pain with the joy, the mess with the beauty.
  5. Find a friend to help you get on track. It’s great if you can do habits by yourself, but it’s even better if you can find a friend who will do it with you, or at least hold you accountable, and help you get things back on track once things clear up for you.
  6. Keep smiling!. That’s the most important thing. Smile, and you’re doing it right.


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