Progress, Not Perfection
“I can’t cut back on sugar this week because my friend’s birthday is Friday and I want to have cake! I’ll start Monday.”
“I can’t join the gym now because I don’t have time to commit to workouts every day. I’ll think about it when this project at work ends and I have more time.”
“I was working out three times a week, but I missed two weeks so I might as well not start again.”
“I can’t start eating healthy now, the holidays are almost here and there’s no way I’ll keep it up then so what’s the point?”
Any of these sound familiar? When contemplating any kind of change we typically think the change has to be abrupt, hardcore, tough rules and all or nothing. That it has to be a perfect plan, followed to perfection. I have good news, it doesn’t!
Merriam-Webster defines perfect as “being entirely without fault or defect” , “satisfying all requirements” and “corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept”. We humans are not without sin and are full of flaws which means we cannot meet this definition of perfect. Perfection is a potentially destructive goal. If you are striving for perfect in all you do you may fail to enjoy the ride, or even small achievements in your life.
It may keep you from pursuing things you want in life. Psychology Today says perfectionism is, “A fast and enduring track to unhappiness, it is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders.” They add, “Perfection, of course is an abstraction, an impossibility in reality, and striving for it can lead to procrastination, a tendency to avoid challenges, rigid thinking and a lack of creativity.” Perfection is impossible! But still so many of us fall victim to striving for it.
Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or as Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” If you are not willing to start until everything is perfect or until you think you can be perfect in meeting your goal, you are never going to start. When looking to improve your health, so many have the “The diet starts on Monday” mentality where you have to 100% be eating healthfully with no exception.
This type of thinking will keep you where you are in terms of health and fitness. If you don’t change, nothing changes. But it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight never to deviate from your idea of the “perfect” diet and exercise plan. Small changes to your eating habits and exercise routine count. Eating healthy meals on most days of the week is better than never eating healthier meals. Getting a workout in two days a week is way better than not working out at all. Don’t let the idea of perfection keep you from creating a healthier lifestyle. It’s not all or nothing.
Progress, not perfection!
If beginning an exercise routine is your goal, you may be worried about sticking with such a big time commitment. Any exercise is good. Even if you get just one walk in a week to start, that counts. If you make it to the gym twice a week, that counts. If you miss a week, come back the next. That’s ok! It doesn’t have to be a “perfect” workout regime. There is no such thing! Plus, starting with smaller goals is a great way to build to a sustainable healthier lifestyle.
Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”
Focus on your progress, on your journey to adding more exercise in your life. Because it is something that should be done for life, not just thirty days or the few months before spring break. Taking care of your body is a lifelong commitment.
There are always going to be things that come up to disrupt your well laid plans for your workouts or healthy meal plan. Be prepared for those times and ready to hop right back on track again.
There is no failure when it comes to your health and wellness. Use any setback as a learning tool. It can help you better prepare for the next bump in the road.
Strive for excellence, but allow for imperfection.
Sometimes the goal we have in mind can seem so overwhelming, we don’t start because we think we will fail. Or we don’t know what steps to take to get there. To be successful, focus on the small steps that will lead to the big goal. Have a goal of running a marathon but you have never run a mile? Start with a goal of run/walking one mile three times a week.
Once you have achieved that goal, you can start moving toward the next win on your journey to running that marathon. Otherwise, you may get discouraged while training for your huge goal of running 26.2 miles straight.
Create benchmarks along the way and be proud of accomplishing each one. Not sure where to start? A personal trainer can help you set these smaller goals to achieve on the way to your overall fitness goal.
“It's not about perfect. It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs.” - Jillian Michaels
Focusing on perfection will lead to a motivation crash the second something goes a little south. Knowing that health and fitness is a lifelong journey, not something that you are either on or you are off or pass or fail, will help you recover from any setbacks. Embrace the wins along the way when things are going well and use those wins to fuel you when you hit a road block.
If you do fall short of a goal, reflect on what happened and use it as a learning experience to help you along moving forward. It’s all part of the journey.
“Perfection is impossible; just strive to do your best.” -Angela Watson
Looking for perfection can hold you back in other ways as well. For example, I have started writing this post about ten times now. I write a few lines, delete some lines, then save it and come back and reread what I’ve written and delete some more and start again.
When talking with a client about my next blog post I told her that I was having trouble feeling satisfied with what I had written. As I explained that I didn’t want to submit it because I thought the post wasn’t good enough, a lightbulb went off and I realized I can keep writing and rewriting but it is never going to be perfect.
I’ll always find something that I want to come back and change, have grammatical errors, or feel like I didn’t get my point across as I had hoped. I can’t let my perfectionist ways keep me from finishing (or starting) a project or blog post or new workout plan. It may never be what I would deem perfect, but I hope that I, and others, benefit from what I have accomplished.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck
We are human, we are imperfect, we are unique. There will always be things that sway you from your path to your target. Being flexible, focusing on the process and celebrating your progress will help you overcome obstacles, because you know there will be ups and downs.
The path to success isn’t a straight line. Celebrate your successes along the way and don’t let perfectionism keep you off the path to your goal.