This concept is near and dear to me because I am a recovering perfectionist.
I used to spend my life focused on unattainable ideals. I thought if how I looked and what I did were perfect then I would be “good enough.”
To quote Brene Brown, “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” This was 100% me.
I also held the belief that a perfectionist mindset is motivating and needed in order to achieve goals. When in fact it is anything but. This mindset only continued to feed my feeling and belief of “not good enough.”
Because most of the ideals (what we believe is perfect) we create in our minds are impossible to attain and are constantly changing.
What I discovered, is that to be happy, stay positive, enjoy life and actually achieve more, I need to focus on where I am today versus where I used to be…progress!
For example, having the energy to train and move my body daily (where I am now) vs. lacking motivation and energy to workout and taking a nap every afternoon (where I used to be). That’s HUGE progress.
Do you see how that is much more motivating to me and helps me to stay consistent with my training schedule than focusing on an ideal that I have created in my head about how I should look or what I should be able to do?
When you adopt a “progress not perfection” mindset, one of the first things you will notice is that you start taking ACTION when before you were paralyzed or stuck. When we are focused on perfection we think why bother because I can’t do it perfectly anyway. Of course, you can’t because there is no such thing as perfection!
You also begin to focus on behavioral goals that will move you closer to who you want to be and what you want to do. You begin to measure and celebrate behaviors rather than outcomes.
You begin to find joy in the journey and you celebrate your wins along the way! We all have progress and accomplishments to be recognized and celebrated!
What is Progress?
If you are headed somewhere, how will you know when you get there?
Oftentimes, if you are not paying attention, you will miss the many signs along your journey. These are the things that tell you, you are moving in the right direction. They are the clear indicators that you are moving closer to your destination and making progress.
When you don’t take time to identify and celebrate progress, you can miss it all together! We highly encourage you to stop, pause, and regularly look at how far you have come. It can be really motivating and exciting to see just how much you have changed, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What “counts” as progress for one person will be different from someone else. We are all at different places on our journey. Sometimes it can be hard to identify the progress in everyday life because you are seeing and living it every day.
Some quit due to slow progress. Never grasping the fact that slow progress…IS PROGRESS.
Tangible progress is often easier to measure and see. Things such as your clothes fitting better, a decrease in weight, or your health markers like triglycerides have improved. Intangible things can be much harder to recognize and can actually positively impact your life MORE than the things you can measure.
I feel confident in my food choices.
I am stronger inside and out.
I am better able to cope with stress.
I am happier.
I feel healthy.
I have become a better person.
When it comes to progress, track and identify what is important to YOU. This is your journey, not anyone else’s. Looking at what you personally value and your goals is a good place to start. Something that is very important to me is a positive body image. I know I have made progress in this area because now when I look in the mirror, I don’t focus on EVERY single imperfection that my body may have. Instead, I appreciate my body and what it does for me. I have gratitude for this body that allows me to experience life.
I would encourage you to keep an open mind about where you may find progress. As you may have heard us say before, the small things are sometimes the BIG things! Absolutely ANYTHING can be progress.
Most importantly, allow yourself to be a “work in progress.”
Progress is anything that moves you closer to being the best version of YOU! Regularly identify and celebrate the progress you are making!!!
Even though you adopt a progress and NOT perfection mindset, there may be times where you find yourself reverting back to old thought patterns. Just like everything else, it takes time to change old behaviors. When your mind has been working one way for many years, it isn’t going to change overnight!
As humans, we are always measuring one thing to another. How and what we are measuring against can dictate our level of happiness. When we measure our achievements against the Ideal (perfection) that isn’t attainable, we always feel as though we are not good enough. Not doing enough.
When you continue to use perfection as your guide for measurement, it can lead to low self-esteem, a state of unhappiness, and depression. Even though your achievements “say” that you should be happy, you are just the opposite, very unhappy.
Tips for Having a Progress Mindset
You will likely have moments or days when you find yourself measuring your achievements against the idea of perfection. As we stated earlier, it will take some time and practice to shift your thinking. Below are some tips and tools to use when you find yourself feeling like you are coming up short as it relates to achieving your goals.
- Write down your goals and review your progress weekly or daily. If you don’t have clearly defined goals, it can be hard to know when/if you are making progress. Focus on behavior goals versus outcome goals. Behavior goals are the things that you can control.
- When you achieve a goal, acknowledge your success and then CELEBRATE!!! We are too quick to move on after an achievement. Give yourself the opportunity to take some time to celebrate. When you consistently engage in your desired behaviors, CELEBRATE!
- Be present. As a result of chasing perfection, “real life” for some people is always in the future. Practice appreciating the “here and now.” While there is a time to think about the past and to plan for the future, often that is how we miss what is happening right now. Enjoy each experience as it happens.
- Practice gratitude. Each day, write down 1-3 things that you are grateful for. This does a couple of things: first, it helps you to always look for the positive in every situation, and second, it will help you to acknowledge achievements. For example, today “I am grateful for my yoga practice because it helps to ground and center me.” The achievement is taking the time to attend a yoga class or practicing on your own.
In Health & Happiness,