Starting Over …

You know those times when you set goals with good intentions but life suddenly gets in the way?

Well, toward the end of last year I made a commitment to give my wellbeing much needed attention. Working on three areas, I continued my daily meditation practice, started walking again, and followed The Mediterranean Diet which studies have shown is good for heart, brain and mental health. I was going well until about a month ago when work hit a really busy patch. Out the window went good intentions and in a flash old habits moved back in! Like so many others, I tend to be hard on myself when this happens. I get bogged down in harsh self-judgement which goes round and round on a loop. Philip Moffits’s words capture this not unusual experience so well, while shining a light on how to start over.“So just how do you practice starting over? Think of it as shifting your attention away from controlling the outcome and abandoning your usual reactions – criticizing, judging, complaining, and lamenting – to getting off track. You don’t deny your thoughts and feelings, and you don’t try to make them go away. Instead, you acknowledge them without making any judgments about them and with compassion for how difficult this moment is. You then follow the acknowledgment with what I call “and” practice, in which you say to yourself, “Yes, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”

You develop the strength to start over because you’re committed to moving toward your goal, not to being there. This is why I call it an attitudinal shift. Your goals matter because they give direction to your life, but your actual life happens in the endless stream of moments that occur between now and when, if ever, you reach your goal.

Ironically, the practice of starting over is a more effective way to achieve your goal than constantly fixating on it. That’s because most of us are not very good at simply delivering results. For instance, if you are trying to lose weight, curb your temper, or cease being a workaholic, you already know what to do to stop the undesirable behavior, but you don’t. Discouragement from your past and imaginings about how bad the future will be drain your energy and cause you to fail. When you embrace starting over as a practice, you focus instead on what you are doing right now and what you need to do or are failing to do. Thus, if you have agreed to take on yet another work project, you reverse yourself as soon as it dawns on you that it is too much. If you sense that you’re losing your temper, you just stop. No drama; you just get right back on your path and start over.” – Philip Moffitt