Posted on September 30, 2011


Earlier this year, I made a commitment to myself. I decided that I had really had enough of saying yes to things I didn’t really want (or for that matter have time) to do.

Saying ‘yes’ to others to earn their approbation is a bad habit I’ve had for years. But after a week where I got stuck doing several unpleasant things for other people (because of my fear of saying no) and in turn neglected some necessary things I needed to do for myself, I decided it was high time I made a change.

So, like any person who is really ready for change, I prepared. I made a plan, I got some resources in place, I turtle-stepped my way to progress and I continued to maintain my new and improved stance of just saying no to things I didn’t want to do.

After a solid six months, “no” had become my default word of choice. I thought I was cured of my people-pleasing tendencies for good. After all, it had been several months and I had successfully faced more than one daunting challenge.

So there I was, resting comfortably on my laurels when suddenly, I found myself in a situation similar to one I had promised myself I would not be in again. Not only had I agreed to do something I absolutely did not want to do but I did it for all the wrong reasons: to earn the approval of someone who wasn’ t all that great to begin with.

How in the world, I wondered, did I end up back here again after all of my hard work?

Perhaps you know exactly what I’m talking about. You work very hard to make a long-lasting change. You do all the right things to make-and maintain-progress. And then, one day, you find yourself unexpectedly back where you started from, feeling a bit disorientated and disappointed.

Welcome to the sixth stage of change. Welcome to Relapse.

Yep, that’s right. Backsliding a bit is all part of the master plan. Some people say it’s the last tug of fear from your subconscious mind. Others say that it happens to remind you of why you’ve worked so hard to make this change in the first place. Whatever the reason may be, it’s a completely normal part of the process.

Here’s what you can do to make it back to where you need to be:

1. Identify the trigger. Almost all relapses are triggered by something that catches us off guard emotionally. See if you can identify what triggered you into resorting to old behavior.

2.  Make an action plan for your triggers. Create a simple and easy plan that you can implement if this trigger rears its ugly head again. (An acquaintance of mine, who has sworn off her fast food addiction, drinks two glasses of water whenever she feels a craving for Wendy’s fries).

3. Be nice to yourself. Remember, relapse is all part of the process. AND it doesn’t happen until you’ve made real, long-term progress. So don’t downplay the huge amount of progress you’ve already made. Relapse happens to those who’ve maintained a change.