Continuous Restarting

Posted on Sat 19 February 2022 in Life • 4 min read

My goals of self-improvement throughout my life have been constantly derailed by failing to make them consistent habits. I know in my brain that consistency is the key to making lasting positive changes, but it's very easy for me to have one day of inconsistency lead to months of being my old self. Failing to maintain a habit leads to negative thoughts of "I just can't stick with it" and "Why bother trying again if I'm going to fail", but my successes have led me to the conclusion that I need to continuously restart my efforts in spite of these thoughts.

By starting any process again, you get to lean on the experiences from every time you failed. You also get to see if you can make it farther than last time. If you don't, you can see if you can start quicker than last time. Or maybe you try a new way, or a new book, or a new route. Maybe you ditch your last experience entirely because it was a fluke. Regardless of what you change or don't change, starting again is the only way to get the thing you initially wanted (assuming you still want that thing). Eventually, the restarting gets a little easier, and you make it a little longer, and it's totally worth it.

Example 1: Workouts and Weightlifting

I say that I've been powerlifting for over 10 years, which is true. However, there's nuance in that, because for the first 8 or so years I was so inconsistent that I'd miss workouts for months at a time. There were points where you could only loosely say that I "worked out" at all that year. I could get myself in a rhythm and stick to it for a few months, then a missed workout led to two missed workouts and then I'd start making excuses about why I'd be too sore if I started again.

There were a few revelations I had throughout this process. For example, I remember reading people online arguing about what lifting program was the best for beginners versus intermediate lifters, and someone made the point that anything works if you stick to it. That opened up a whole world of possible programs I could try when I restart workouts! Now, to be clear, sticking to one program is better for seeing results, but I just needed a habit, and changing programs was a way for me to continuously restart. Eventually one stuck, and I'm glad I restarted with new programs so often over the years.

I also learned a few specific things that work best for me. I do better with working out at night, but I know plenty of people who prefer mornings. Drinking alcohol at all the day of lifting either makes the workout suck or makes me want to skip it, so now I avoid it. Supersets keep me doing things so I get as much done in as little time as possible. Planning target weights weeks in advance helps me stick to a schedule because I can see how I'm tracking towards a short-term goal. All of these are things that I don't know if I would have learned without failing and restarting.

Any conversation I have where someone comments on my consistent workouts leads to me talking about all the times I failed. I think it's important for anyone who wants to work out to improve their fitness to know that it took a long time for me to get consistent with it and see results. My hope is that realistic expectations leads to inspiration for starting it anyway, even if sticking to it doesn't come naturally, because it didn't for me.

Example 2: Money and Budgeting

After college, I had a big spending problem. I had a credit card, and I would pay the minimums, but I basically bought anything I wanted as long as I had room on the credit card. Every once in a while, I'd try to start reeling in my spending, but I'd fail after a tough work day or if my friends were going to do something cool. Eventually, Megan showed me her budgets, and I tried to implement them as we were combining our finances after getting married. Even with a set budget, I had to restart my adherence to the budget, but each time it got easier. I'd find the things that triggered my overspending and avoid them. Also, we started building in buffers and "fun money" categories to help with guilt-free spending. Unbudgeted bonuses would also be useful as a tool for fighting overspending, as we had something to look forward to. Now, we're in great financial shape, but it was only because we kept restarting and trying to stick with something we knew would be good for us long-term.

Getting Restarted

Restarting repeatedly is definitely easier said than done. Usually, it's a mental block I have that is very negative around how the failure was a bad thing. Sometimes, after I realize I need to restart something, it still takes me a while to do so because I don't want to fail again. I have to remind myself that failing again is much better than not restarting. Having a few continuous restarts that have turned into habits really helps me rationalize restarting something else in order to be better than I was yesterday.