Laying here looking up at the bottom of the wagon; I could pretend that I'm here for the view. Or I could tell myself that I didn't want to be on that wagon anyway. Maybe I could explain to passers-by that this is all part of the plan because this is my cheat day. But that wouldn't be true. No. To be totally honest, I didn’t just fall off of the wagon — it ran me over.
How did I get here? Were my goals too ambitious? Did I hitch a ride in the wrong wagon? It's not as though I didn't want to succeed. There are so many things that can push me over the edge of that wagon. Stress. Exhaustion. Even boredom.
Hey, sometimes it's even a misguided attempt at “self-care.”
See, those excuses are the baggage I lugged onto the wagon with me that weighed me down and made the falling easier, but I could have stayed on anyway. I could have been better prepared and when the going got tough I could have thrown the baggage over and stayed on. And I have since. I stay on the wagons more often than not now. And here's how...
Expect to fall
Since there are approximately zero perfect humans in this world I think it's safe to say that pretty much everyone has seen the underside of the wagon. So can we do something weird and talk about it? Not whether your wagon is pine or red painted steel but let's talk about what you will do the next time you find yourself outside of it.
Yes, I am advocating for making a plan for falling off the wagon. Not planning to fall off the wagon but anticipating that bump in the road that will send you careening over the side rails. You have to know what could cause it and you have to have a plan to throw the baggage over to lighten the load and stay aboard.
Was that your ride?
Why did you fall off? Sometimes its because that wasn't your ride. CrossFit isn't my ride. Marathons aren't my ride. 24-hour fasts -- definitely not my ride. An 18-point harness couldn't keep me on those wagons. Arthritic knees and a genuine appreciation for flavor explosions prevents me from hopping into those wagons. And we need to be picky, friends. We need to be honest with ourselves about what we're willing to trade and choose our rides carefully. We need to know that they are safe and headed in the direction we actually want to go.
How long was the trip?
How long had you been along for the ride? Not going to lie -- I've bailed early before. Sometimes it's because I realized it wasn't my ride before the wagon came to a complete stop. But sometimes it was because I expected to get to the destination sooner than I was prepared to wait. This is a big one. Because if we choose our ride carefully we should have a realistic expectation of the length of the trip. If we board a wagon that will take us to 50 lbs. of weight loss in 30 days we better be a.) skeptical and b.) prepared for a wild ride with the possibility of being a little unsteady about how to continue on foot afterward. But most importantly we need to know where we're going, how long it'll take us to get there, and what we're going to do when we get there.
Did you enjoy the scenery?
Do you get motion sickness? I do. It's bad. I typically do much better when I'm the one driving but sometimes if the road is long and winding even pilot status won't guarantee a nausea-free ride. I can't enjoy myself when I'm sick. I'm only focused on how much longer it'll take, if there is a convenient place to stop, and please, please, please don't throw up in the car. I don't see the scenery. I don't hear the passengers. I'm only focused on how I feel. I wouldn't knowingly put myself in that position if I could avoid it. I would look for an alternate route or an alternate ride (air travel is key for me, friends).
Sometimes we choose options where the destination looks fantastic but the journey itself is miserable. How likely are we to stay on board if we can't enjoy the scenery? If you choose a 30-day spinning challenge but don't actually enjoy spinning...
If you choose a Mediterranean-style diet plan but can't stand fish...
Wanting the see the destination isn't enough to stay on the wagon when the trip is long - we need to enjoy the scenery. So choose your wagon accordingly.
How did you fall?
I have fallen in numerous ways. I've fallen gracelessly and thrown tantrums on impact. I've bounced. I often fall while laughing. I've even fallen out of one wagon into another wagon (I do not recommend).
So, do you fall hard and get stuck for a day? Maybe two? A week? Or do you just ditch the wagon and walk back?
Do you fall out of the wagon, land on your feet and jump back up?
Maybe you don't fall out -- maybe you jump?
The way you exit the wagon is a mindset game you CAN win. It is critical to understand how we fall and why we fall if we ever want to stop. It speaks to and builds upon our resilience and our tenacity. Resilience in the face of setbacks is a skillset all people can (and should) develop. And resilience is equal parts grace and determination -- it is permitting ourselves to exit the wagon and also not allowing ourselves to stay out for too long.
Frame your next fall
And hey, maybe wagons aren't your thing (or death by idioms); but growth and exploration are (I hope) universal. And since all human endeavor is bound to result in a few setbacks, then learning from and planning for the setbacks only empowers us to bounce back more quickly.
Because as perfectly imperfect beings we are bound to fall again. Don't be surprised by it! Frame the scenario in your mind and be prepared to execute a stylish fall and recovery. To everyone else it may look like it was your plan all along. And to you, you'll have little time to feel badly about the outcome because you'll already be working on your next pre-planned step.
So plan by choosing your wagons prudently, by understanding your reactions to obstacles and failures, and by having a plan for what you will do when you fall next time.
And fall out of that wagon with flair - stick the landing.