I remember the week vividly. By Friday afternoon, I needed to submit our forecast and budget model for the upcoming year, probably my single biggest corporate project ever. In the 16 hour days, I couldn’t find the time or energy for writing – and I broke my habit.

That was two months ago, and the block staring back at me has grown bigger by the day. I couldn’t figure out how to get started again.

Has that ever happened to you?

Perhaps you were working out consistently, and then an injury or illness forced you to the sidelines for what should have been a couple of weeks. Instead, you sat out a few seasons. Or perhaps you were eating well, and then a vacation messed up your routine, and you haven’t been able to find it again.

You’re not alone. It happens to all of us.

And I think there’s something we can do about it: plan to fail.

Yep. You read that right.

In the world of habit development, I think we should plan to fail.

But it doesn’t stop there. In planning to fail, we’re also planning how to get back up again. That’s the real key.

Over the weekend, I enjoyed a homemade pizza with a crust made from cauliflower rice. It’s beyond delicious, and one of my favorite treats. But it also has tons of cheese, a general no-no for keeping myself healthy. In buying the ingredients, I was sure to buy just enough that there would be no leftovers.

I planned to fail.

We’ve all heard of cheat days. It’s when you’re on a diet or eating plan, and you decide to go off track for a day. For that day, you can succumb to your weaknesses and acknowledge how difficult it is to be disciplined. Perhaps there’s value in that.

I think there’s an even bigger lesson. The next day, we learn to start again. We learn how to toss out the unhealthy leftovers so we’re not tempted any more. We learn to refocus on our health goals and renew our discipline.

This morning, I realized that we can all use that same approach for other habits too.

If I know that I am going to encounter writer’s block in times of increased stress, I can plan for that.

  • Like clearing the unhealthy leftovers from the fridge, I can clear the distracting clutter from my desktop, giving myself a fresh space to write.
  • To remind me of my goals and why writing is important, I could write an email to myself and schedule it to arrive when I know I’ll be struggling. Or, I could ask a friend to do the same.
  • To make it easier to get back in the routine, I could have a few draft ideas and article outlines saved up so I wouldn’t have to start from a blank screen.

In planning to fall down, I can also plan how to get back up.


What do you think?

Should we try our hardest not to fail? Or should we acknowledge it and focus on rebounding quickly?