Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shoot for Progress, Not Perfection

I've had this chat with myself, clients, teammates, family and friends at one point or another. Most of us have said, "I tried my best, but I'm so frustrated because I wasn't perfect."

"Perfect?" The word should be "Progress." It's incredible how fast people forget their achievements with just one challenging week. That's what striving for perfection does to you. Progress enables you to navigate life's obstacle courses and deal with tough times along the healthy lifestyle journey.

Instead, when you think things are less than stellar and you're being hard on yourself, regroup again and again. Many of us think that anything short of perfection as "unacceptable." Perfect means "being entirely without fault or defect, or flawless like a perfect diamond." You're a human being." Living beings are never perfect. Inanimate objects are - test scores, computer systems, your car brakes. These are all quantifiable and, if they become imperfect, can be fixed to achieve perfection again. I want my computer and my car operating perfectly. Living beings should aim for progress, never perfection. Perfection leads to paralysis. If you're so terrified about taking that first step (e.g. learning to cook a healthier dinner, joining a gym and taking that first class) and not doing it perfectly, you won't try at all. Enough of this perfection thing.

Embrace progress and honor your own humanity. When you look at pictures of women and men in magazines, don't ever believe that they are perfect. Don't use them as a goal to achieve. You're looking at the results of hours of make-up applications, hair styling, and photo shopping.

Go for progress; have an objective or goal. This is about moving you forward through your life journey toward your positive goal of optimal health and wellness. This is a living, breathing dynamic journey that never ends until you do. Progress is about a lifelong process of living. You practice this every day of your life. Some days are hopping good while others are funky and thus you're completely forgiven for hiding under your blankets never wanting to get up and face the day.

Try the 80/20 rule. Progress, not perfection, means that if you pay attention and work hard and keep your focus 80 percent of the time, you're doing superbly well. The other 20 percent of the time, you get to be human. Are you in the midst of a hormonal tsunami and feel drained? No problem. Blow off your workout today and go home, chill out and watch your favorite show. Pick it up again tomorrow. Fell off the wagon and binged? Hey, nobody died. Stop beating yourself up. Don't keep crying out "why did I do that?" Instead, see the lesson and make the connection (e.g. your boss lit into you and you bolted for the break room as soon as he/she left). That's part of your humanly 20 percent. Regroup as soon as you can and keep pushing forward. And, next time, you'll be better prepared mentally to cope without self destructing.

Pound perfection out of your life and shoot for progress by practicing these simple exercises:
Replace "perfection," with "progress".
Instead of saying "I wasn't perfect," proclaim "I did the best I could, given the situation." Your day starts with back to back meetings and ends at 9pm as you stumble through your door. Hey, so what if you didn't see the gym or you ended up eating later than planned? It happens. Get over it and move on, regrouping as best you can the next day.
Substitute "but" with "and." "I lost 20 pounds, but I still have 15 more to go" doesn't sound as good as "I lost 20 pounds and I'm on my way to losing 15 more!"
Celebrate every ounce of progress you make. Never diminish your smallest achievement. Delight in the fact that you now eat a healthy breakfast every morning instead of skipping it as you've done for years.

Pound perfection out of your lifestyle habits. Perfectionism creeps into your work and personal life. Stop being so rigid. Lighten up and smile as you continue your quest for progress, not perfection.

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