What To Do When You Run Out of Steam

Are you one of those people who gets completely stuck in to new projects, new ideas and new plans but find that despite your wholehearted efforts at the beginning, you run out of puff halfway through? This happens to the best of us, whether it relates to a new fitness plan, a business idea, a fresh diet, a plan to write a novel or to cook meals at home every day.

With so many distractions in life, letting other stuff get in the way of our goals is an issue, but it is also a convenient excuse. How many times have you heard of someone committing on 1 January every year to ‘exercise more’ or to ‘eat less’, only to talk to them two months later to discover they have fallen back into bad habits. Or maybe you catch yourself constantly making excuses for why you haven’t followed through.

Before I lambast you for letting this happen, I openly admit that running out of steam is not unusual. What can seem like a fantastic and exciting idea or opportunity at the start can lose its shine once reality and real commitment kicks in. Despite this however, there is a way around it. That way is as follows:

Do something small, every day, that will steer you in the direction of your goal.

This mantra is so easy because it applies to all the above examples, plus many more and here is how:

You have committed to a full blown, time consuming exercise program but now don’t have the time or energy to follow through

This one is a classic. It is great that you made the commitment in the first place, however if staying true to your one hour, seven days a week workout schedule is proving difficult, don’t ditch the plan all together. Instead, on the days you can’t get to the gym, do some exercises at home, go for a walk, or ramp up the intensity of your workout so you sweat more in a shorter amount of time. Doing even a small amount of exercise every day is much better than skipping a day all together. The consistency of your behaviour strengthens your willpower and reinforces that your actions are positive and are beneficial to your life.

You told everyone you were going to write a book. Four chapters in, you can’t be bothered anymore or lose interest

Writing can be hard and many writers will tell you that they require ‘inspiration’ in order to write clearly and to push through the perpetual block in their heads. I personally don’t believe this is true. Sure, some days of writing produce a better  quality of work than others, but if you commit to sitting down and just writing, letting the words flow out on to the page, no matter how long you write for, you will feel all the better for it. You may even find that just starting gets your creative juices flowing. You can always review your work tomorrow and amend it if it is not up to your usual standard. Generally though you will find that there is at least a bare skeleton in which you can work with. Committing say to writing only 100 words a day still keeps your project progressing along and keeps your goal in sight.

You have resolved to ‘go on a diet’ but just can’t resist that after dinner chocolate bar, every night

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This is a hard one, especially for people who treat food as a reward. My advice to you is this: just start to cut back, little by little. Instead of embarking on a full blown, restrictive diet, start cutting back on your overall food intake. If you currently eat dessert every night, start by making this every second night, then every third etc. Instead of stuffing yourself with chocolate and ice cream after dinne, find a new evening activity – read a book, treat yourself to a magazine or go out and get a manicure. Go for a walk or drive or phone up a friend for a chat. Once you start to slowly and gently cut back on your dietary habits, you begin to mould your patterns with food and before you realise it, you will only be eating dessert once a week, or saving it for special occasions.

You want to cook every night at home but are just too tired when you get home from work to buy and prepare ingredients

Instead of trying to commit to this every day, initially start small. If you usually eat out or get delivery, start by setting aside one night a week, perhaps a Sunday when you have had the weekend to get organised, as the night in which you cook yourself a meal from scratch. As you start to build up a repertoire of recipes (and ingredients in your pantry), you will find that it will be easier to quickly prepare meals at home. Just start creating a habit whereby you perform this task once a week, then build up from there.

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On the ‘doing something every day’ front for this one, perhaps commit to looking up a new recipe each day and putting it in a scrapbook for your dedicated cooking nights. That way, this commitment still remains in the forefront of your mind but takes minimal effort on a daily basis.

As you can see, sticking to goals doesn’t have to be difficult when you break them down into smaller, less daunting segments. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop committing yourself 100%, but for those days when you can’t be bothered/don’t have time/have run out of puff, try anyway. Take baby steps and don’t force the issue. The reinforcement of your positive behaviours on a daily basis makes it more likely that you will continue to repeat these patterns that you have set for yourself over a long period of time. Only you are the winner out of this, so next time you feel out of puff, just go slowly but remember to be consistent. As always, consistency is the key success.