Last week, I shared about how I am learning to embrace the idea of progress, not perfection. I have not figured it all out, but I am learning. I wrote last week’s post and then got started on a new Bible study session at my church. We’re going through Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Can you guess what the first lesson was about? Imperfect progress.
What kept me from making changes was the feeling I wouldn’t do it perfectly. I knew I’d still mess up and the changes wouldn’t come instantly. — Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued, page 14.
I cannot escape this idea! It seems like it’s following me around. 😉 But, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. There is encouragement in knowing others struggle just like I do.
My journey to embrace “progress, not perfection” started when I decided to do the Couch to 5K running program in the fall of 2010. I had always HATED running, but, for some reason, I wanted to try this running program out. It is a nine-week program that has you walk and jog for 30 minutes three times a week. You start out walking more than running and gradually add running minutes each week.
The best time for me to exercise is first thing in the morning, so I was actually changing two habits by getting up early and adding some regular exercise to my life. Because of that, for the first week or two I only walked in the morning. I needed to get used to getting up earlier first.
And, you know what? The program actually worked! It was not easy (it does involve running), but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be. The key was how slow the program starts out and the small, gradual increases in running. The program designers knew what they were doing. At coolrunning.com, the website explaining the program, it recommends not skipping ahead but repeating weeks as necessary until you are ready to move on.
Too many people have been turned off of running simply by trying to start off too fast. –coolrunning.com
I have to wonder how many times I have sabotaged my own progress by trying to start off too fast? I decide something like: “I’m going to get up early, exercise, cook breakfast for my family from scratch, do a load of laundry every day, reorganize the whole house and end world hunger all before 10 a.m.!” Am I the only crazy person who does this? It’s really silly and does not set me up for success.
I don’t expect my kids to learn to walk in a day. Or learn to ride a bike. Or learn to read. The list could go on. We gradually help our kids learn to do new things. My preschooler is still learning to recognize her letters. My first grader has mastered reading easy words. My third grader is reading chapter books. They each learn at a slightly different pace. I certainly don’t expect my four-year-old to be reading her brother’s Hardy Boys books, so why do I think I need to do everything perfectly the first time?
There is a four year age difference between my oldest and youngest children. Granted, children grow and change much more drastically than an adults do, but if I look back at myself four years ago, I have made some changes, too. I generally want instant change or at least more obvious progress. In our hurried culture of text messages, fast food, extreme make-overs and instant everything, it’s easy to forget that I am a work in progress.
Disclaimer: I am drinking a can of pop as I type this. I used to have a can of pop every day. This is the first one I’ve had in at least one month. It doesn’t even taste that good to me. Giving up pop has sometimes felt like a war I could never win. Some battles have ended in defeat and others in victory. That is progress, not perfection.
Another disclaimer: I still don’t love running. (And I don’t run in the winter, because I don’t have anywhere to run inside.) But, I have learned to do something I hated by embracing the idea of slow, gradual change. I’m pretty sure that if I can learn to run a 5K, you can do whatever it is that seems too hard!
Have you tried to make changes too quickly without giving yourself the time to let a new habit stick?