Even the most disciplined people find times in their lives where they drift away from their goals. Life is consistently inconsistent, and it’s those people who catch themselves before they drift too far off course that excel and achieve their goals. I especially notice this when it comes to health and wellness. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve participated in several 5k and half-marathon races. During the training seasons for those events, I have found myself laser focused on my goals and motivated each day to accomplish them. But in the absence of an impending race, I become inconsistent. Runs turn to walks, and workout intensity drops to a minimum, and sometimes nothing at all. High performing athletes have an off-season, but it doesn’t mean being “off” from training. And because how we fuel our bodies plays a large part in overall health, I’m also mindful of what I eat (physically and spiritually). I generally eat healthy, but all I need is a birthday, vacation, or festive moment to throw caution to the wind. And in the summer, all of the above happen in a matter of a month. June babies rock!

Another place I see the drift effect is in my home office. Even the best systems require you to stick with them consistently. Letting papers pile up and not putting things where they belong will destroy any semblance of organization. Overflowing mailboxes, unpacked suitcases, out of order desks can all rob you of focus and productivity.

So as I’m working to restore my spiritual, physical, and workplace discipline (again!), I’m reminded of a story my pastor recently shared about being out on a lake fishing. He paused to fish and later looked up and realized the boat had drifted far from where it was originally. As I reflected on that example, I thought about the principles I’ve learned along the way with some realities of life. There are 3 important lessons to take heed of when sticking to your goals:

Drop your anchor, it will hold you steady – Ultimately, you want to prevent drift from occurring, and this requires an anchor. You need your consistent days to far outnumber our inconsistent ones. To do this, you have to establish habits that focus on what’s important, that keep you inline with your purpose. Exercising daily, eating a healthy, balanced diet and finishing important tasks on time will prevent the drift. Having purpose-driven goals, a rooted faith, and daily discipline will keep you from drifting from your goals.

Even in a boat, a little goes a long way – Working your plan requires you to take small steps daily. These tiny victories add up and keep you from having to fight your way back. The struggle comes during extremely busy seasons when there are limitations on your time. The key here is to put in a little bit each day, preventing you from having to start all over. Exercise minimally (but keep that body moving), maintain moderation in eating even while on vacation, connect with God while away from your place of worship, and create simple on-the-go organizing steps that reduce clutter. As long as you’re paddling your boat a little bit each day, you won’t drift too far of course.

You can’t control the water, only the boat – There are times when your routine is disrupted and you can’t focus on your goals. This could be because of a vacation (a planned disruption), or a family medical emergency (an unplanned disruption). Regardless of the cause of the pause, give yourself grace, commit to a restart day, and adjust your plan. Be grateful for muscle memory, go on a cleanse, and refile those loose papers. In reality, some days we can’t paddle because we have to fish. When that happens, drop your oars, and paddle as hard as you can. And as long as those gaps aren’t too far apart, you won’t have to paddle back too far.

Excellence is a daily practice, and successful people understand that. Focus on your goals, establish strong habits, and stay the course. But don’t let go of grace, because remember, drift happens!