03/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

When Blown Off-Course, Apply the 4 As

This blog is part of M.J Ryan's Intent Learning Series

You've been doing well and then something threw a monkey wrench into your formula for success. Make no mistake -- setbacks suck. You're right back where you started. Actually it's worse. Because you've set off that part of your mind that whispers, "See, you can't do this. Just give up. Give in. It's not worth even trying." This is a truly dangerous moment. Because if we listen to this voice, not only do we not change this time, but we decrease the possibility of ever changing because we lose faith in ourselves.

That's why, when circumstances throw us off course, as they inevitably will, it's time for the 4As:

* Assess the current situation
* Adjust what needs to be done
* "Admire yourself," in the words of fitness guru Bob Greene, "for being strong enough to start again"
* Act quickly to implement your new course of action.

To my mind, the most important As are the last two. Admiring ourselves helps us stay positive and avoid a spiral into negative self-esteem -- "Oh see, I'm not capable of doing this right. This mess-up proves it." It turns a mishap into an esteem boost when we remind ourselves that it takes great courage and persistence to not give up.

Acting quickly is also crucial. Otherwise, we'll lose the energy of our commitment and slide back into our bad old behaviors. That's where assessment and adjustment come in. What's nonnegotiable is that you're doing your thing. How and when you're going to do it -- that's what's open to all kinds of rearrangements.

Remember, even Oprah has had to pick herself up and start again on her fitness program many times, in front of millions, no less. So when blown off course, get the 4As in gear. It doesn't matter how many times you begin again. It only matters that you begin again.

Become an expert at starting over -- you'll not only make your dream come true, but increase your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence.

To Try: Have you blown it yet? Put the 4As in place: assess, adjust, admire yourself and act quickly.

Adapted from This Year I Will...: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True