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  • The Goal Rollercoaster: Lapse v. Relapse

The Goal Rollercoaster: Lapse v. Relapse

February 6, 2014

Many of us make resolutions to bring about changes in our lives. The intention is powerful and hopeful and the desire to live a healthier, more stable, more secure life is such a wonderful one that I would be the last to dismiss it. However, statistics show that after 6 months more than half of the individuals who have set resolutions have abandoned them.

There are a multitude of factors that set successful goal achievers apart from unsuccessful ones. One important framework change is to understand that the achievement of a goal is not one upward trending experience. Instead, it’s more like a wavy line full of ups and downs. That wavy line usually needs more ups than downs to continuously support the motivation.

When the downs come around and they will, you will need to be able to distinguish between a lapse and a relapse to be able to cope with them and turn them into an up. A lapse is temporary state where you fall back into old habits —  but can recall and can use the new behaviors to help you out of the downturn. A relapse is complete fall back into old patterns where all the positive strategies or behaviors are tossed out in favor of returning to the habits that you initially wanted to change. Recognizing the difference can prevent you from turning a lapse into a relapse and losing focus on your goal.

There are some useful things to remember that will keep you from turning a lapse into a relapse:

  • Make each day a new one – Start fresh each morning even if the past day you experienced lapse behaviors. Find a way to begin the day in a refreshed, renewed manner.
  • Have a goal partner – Find someone who is supportive of your goals and reach out for a pick-me-up conversation.
  • Talk to yourself in a positive way – Beating yourself up only primes you for a relapse. Say positive things about yourself to support your efforts and the positive things that you are doing.
  • Recalibrate your goals – If the lapse sets you off course, you may need readjust your goals so that you are not chasing a goal and feel constantly behind and punished for the lapse. Goals are meant for revision.

Lapses are a part of reaching a goal. The key is not to misinterpret a lapse for a relapse and support the process by attending to the lapse so you can get back on track with your goal setting and achievement.


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