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Expect Curves Ahead

There are two important truths about change:

  1. It happens slowly, over time.
  2. The path to change most likely isn’t a straight line.

One day you might be meeting your goals. Then you have a stressful day or two at work, or yoga class is canceled -- and your motivation takes a hit.

At times like this, think about how to adjust your schedule to stay, or get back, on track. You have to map out a new plan.

That's OK. In fact, it’s normal to hit a few speed bumps on the road to changing your behavior for good.

Count on the fact that you'll lose your way. Just like an emergency kit in your car, you need to have tools ready for the unexpected.

Prepare by thinking of solutions for likely situations, such as these:

  • What will you do when a co-worker brings in homemade cookies?
  • How will you move on if you fall back into your old habits? For example, you overeat, or skip the gym?
  • What will you do when you feel stressed?
  • Who can you call for help?

"We expect our journey to be a straight path -- and when it’s not, we beat ourselves up or just quit altogether," says Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, NC.

To help her clients have a less emotional response, she suggests you redirect yourself like your GPS does.

Your GPS is objective and doesn't blame you. It's programmed to know that you’re going to make mistakes and redirect you. If the new route doesn't work, it offers you another way.

So don't judge yourself for a detour. "Use your energy to get back on the right road," Rydin-Gray says.

When you practice doing that, the amount of time you stay off-road will get shorter and shorter. Eventually, you willget to the point when your habits feel natural.

Still, at times, you'll have to dig deep to fine-tune your motivation -- again. You'll have to rethink your environment and relationships. And you'll make mistakes.

That's normal. It's how you change your behavior for good.

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