Hi. My name is Cori, and I’m a perfectionist. (Insert “Hi, Cori!” from the Perfectionists Anonymous group I really should join.)
It’s the truth. I hate to admit it, for some reason, but I’m a perfectionist. Blame it on being a first born or whatever the “experts” say, it’s a fact.
I have read that there are two kinds of perfectionists. One brand is your typical Type-A personality who is unable to function until everything perfect. This is not me. The other kind of perfectionist is the one who wants things to be perfect, but is unable to make or do something perfectly, so they just don’t do it at all. This is me.
I mean, I should just stop writing this because I won’t do it perfectly, right? Ha ha! I kid. Sort of. 😉
So, what does this all have to do with anything? Well, it can really sabotage healthy choices, if I’m not careful.
One problem is that I get stuck in what I call research mode. I read, read, read about the right way to do something. This isn’t all bad, it was a great challenge that Jessica posted last week. (See Challenge #2.) The problem comes when I research something but then never put it into practice. I get stuck gathering information or products and never use them. At some point we have to just jump in and start the work, even if we haven’t quite learned how to do it right.
Another problem comes when failure hits. I start a day with some exercise, eat a healthy breakfast and then mid-morning eat a cookie. Well, my healthy eating isn’t perfect, so I might as well give up.
How silly is that? It’s ridiculous, don’t you think? Yet, this is how I have made choices for many years. “I already messed up, so I might as well give in and try again another day.” Because eating four more cookies makes a lot of sense.
I have really had to embrace the idea of progress, not perfection. I’m a human, so I’ll never be perfect. I’m going to skip exercising some days. I’m going to give in to a craving from time to time. I’m going mess up. But it’s not an excuse to give up!
Dave Ramsey is a finance guy who specializes in helping people get out of debt and living on a budget. He specifically recommends the “Debt Snowball” method of paying off debts. Conventional wisdom might suggest you first pay off your debt that has the highest interest rate, since it’s obviously costing you more money each month. Dave says, no. He says you should pay off your smallest debt first, and then once it’s paid off, put that money towards your next smallest debt. This continues to “snowball” until all of your debt is paid off. He recommends it because by paying off small debts, you gain a sense of victory and momentum to keep going.
The same is true for our healthy choices. Our small changes seem really small by themselves, but over time they start to snowball!
So, let’s apply the snowball method to your healthy lifestyle goals. Write out the things you’d like to do on a list. This should look different for each person, as we are all at different points in our journey. Next, decide which item on your list will be easiest for you to start with. You will need to make sure the goal is fairly specific. “Eat healthier” is too vague, but “have a vegetable at every meal” is specific. Finally, start working on your first goal! Once it has become a regular habit or routine for you, figure out your next easiest goal and add another one.
Might I suggest Jessica’s workouts for a goal? They incorporate the small, gradual changes that will make it possible for you to meet your goals.
Keep in mind that messing up is not an excuse to give up! We are aiming for progress, not perfection!