Motivation Strategies

1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward

Don't Let a Setback Stop You from Pushing Ahead

"Fall seven times, get up eight." - Japanese Proverb
"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." - John Quincy Adams
"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials." - Chinese Proverb
"Never give in. Never. Never. Never. Never." - Winston Churchill
"Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance." - Samuel Johnson

These quotes all say the same thing. No matter how many obstacles you run into, what matters is that you’re able to overcome each of them, one at a time.

"Two steps forward, one step back" is usually a negative term to describe someone who is having trouble making progress. But switched around, "1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward" means that instead of grousing or feeling guilty about a misstep, you can still come out ahead if you put your head down and push forward.

Steps back can take many forms: a family vacation, breaks in your routine, personal tragedies, injuries, or that lost weekend in front of the tube. A big mistake people make when trying to get healthier is that when they fall off a bit or something happens, they think they "have to start over". Wrong! When missteps do happen, a better strategy is to simply take two steps forward. You’re still ahead of where you were before, far beyond the starting line.

In tennis, losing one point isn’t the end of the world. It happens to the best of them. In fact, if you can consistently win a few more points that you lose, you may end up in the hall of fame. With healthy eating and exercising, as long as you’re consistently out-stepping your steps back, you’re ahead of the game. If you expect perfection (and many of us do), you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and guilt.

Guilt can be debilitating to your healthy habits. When you mess up (or even when things are messed up for you), it’s natural to feel guilty. At that point, you have a choice: to let that guilt plummet you into a cycle that could spit you out worse off than before, or to accept the step back and say "where do I go from here?"

Of course, consistent success is still something to strive for. You don’t want to roller-coaster up and down. That’s an "old" habit, remember? And the 1Step/2Step strategy doesn’t lessen the need to do your best. You should still work hard to keep those steps back from happening. But it helps to be prepared with a plan and a positive attitude for when they do happen.

Many times, this means a rededication, a refocusing, and a recommitment. You might want to look at your program and see why it’s allowing those landmines to stick around. Use it as a learning process. Ask how you can keep that misstep from happening again. 
  • Take a walk in the woods to clear your head and regroup.
  • Have a personal "bounce back" motto that will re-energize you. Put it everywhere.
  • Take a break if you think you’re trying too hard.
  • Return to the basics. Are you making it too complicated and tough on yourself?
  • Plan ahead for irregularities in your schedule, call ahead to healthy restaurants, pack healthy snacks.
  • Stay aware of what you’re doing. One meal mess up can turn into a one day mess up, a one week mess up if you’re not careful.
  • Remind yourself of your success so far when you need a boost.
Unlike people who run 10 miles today because they should have run two yesterday, "2 Steps Forward" doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot more to make up for a blunder. Just make a commitment to do things as right as possible as much as you can.

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Member Comments

  • Thanks helpful article
  • I needed this today! Thank you for the encouraging words!
  • Doing this really helps. Puts a whole new perdpective on the journey.
  • Staying on the right track is hard work. Being positive is tough in a world like ours. Winston Churchill said, The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." We cannot give up on something we started.
  • right on!!! if you are looking to change your body and youve spent a lifetime abusing it.....slow down and sgow yourself some love!
  • I've been doing this right along it's a huge help. One of the teams I am has a Spark member who is in the "The Spark" and she had told me she does this. I quickly adopted it. One meal is NOT a big deal. If I really go to town and my weight goes up (sometimes 4 lbs) it'll go back down within 10 days as long as I stay on my regular eating new habits.
  • I really needed this today - took a step back yesterday and trying to not beat myself up for it.
  • This is a wonderful article! Gives us direction and hope. Fewer of us will quit the race, but just go 1 step back then 2 steps forward!

    Thanks! (((hugs)))
    I needed this today...
  • EWAGNEV493
    I especially found the closing line of this article the most helpful for me: "Just make a commitment to do things as right as possible as much as you can." I'm going to try & focus on it "as much as I can" to improve positivity & delete "negativity!"
  • I so needed to read this article today and am going to read it again because today has been such a disaster that I've been wondering if I'll recover from it. I'm in two weight loss challenges right now and gained 2.9 pounds this week on one of them and am scared of what the scales will say tomorrow. My sweet tooth has been in OVER DRIVE and it's hard to tame it back and then my sweet son, who never buys sweets, comes home with THREE boxes of Girl Scout cookies and of course, I couldn't let there by any left for tomorrow. Thankfully, he ate one box and my daughter and I chowed down on the other two. I am going to follow the advice from the article and write up a mantra of some kind I can put up in the kitchen so I'll stay away from something sweet. I don't have cookies laying around but my "addiction" the past two weeks has been warm oatmeal smothered in butter and brown sugar.....oatmeal = good for you butter/brown sugar = not so good Here's to a better tomorrow and I will be continuing on with the daily resets to get things right.
  • I liked this article but I think the saying is 1 step forward 2 steps back. To indicate you aren't making any progress.
  • I needed to read this, now I just have to apply it to my routine

About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.
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