Progress is the New Perfection


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Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid having tunnel vision when it comes to your own wants and needs. People can become bogged down by thoughts of the lives they wish they were living and the goals they want to achieve. This can result in stagnation, rather than fueling the necessary motivation. Thoughts of perceived failure can lead to frustration and self-loathing. This only compounds the struggle, and makes the probability of achieving the desired results less likely. Self-blame is a destructive natural inclination that rarely serves as a motivating factor. Instead, it can lead to stress and prompt more bad habits. 

Rather than fixate on the perfection we want, perhaps we should focus on the progress we’re making every day. Life will never be idyllic, but the fact is, you can attain your version of perfection – even if the end result is not the picture-perfect image you originally had in mind.

So how do we move from here to there without the pointless self-criticism?

Routines are a powerful force

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that our ingrained routines are a big hindrance to change. Routines are essentially a series of habits. We establish them to provide structure to our days and a framework for our decisions. Even when formed without much conscious input on our part, the routines we develop make us feel safe and secure, lending a sense of normalcy. As a species, we tend to embrace routines.

Naturally, the thought of changing something familiar can be scary. Even when we accept that change is necessary and begin working toward it, bucking our routines to break unwanted habits can be incredibly difficult. It may even feel impossible at times. But the reality is far more hopeful. We’re all capable of making positive change. And that’s the simple truth.

How do you break a bad habit?

The first step in breaking any habit is to bring it into conscious awareness. In other words, be mindful of the behavior when it happens. Determine possible triggers, such as a certain time-of-day or circumstance. For the sake of example, let’s say the habit is biting your nails.  Begin by training yourself to notice each time it happens. Pause and observe your situation. Try to figure out what might be triggering you.

Next, write down what you discover. Now that you understand them better, make a list of triggers, along with some strategies to counteract them. Consider keeping an exact log of nail-biting occurrences. This will clear your head and help you focus on the task at hand, along with yielding useful information.

Finally, decide on a substitute action to help you transition.  For instance, you could keep a pack of chewing gum close at hand. Pop a piece in whenever your fingers start toward your mouth. Doing something (anything!) else will break the pattern and help refocus your energy more productively. Ultimately, that’s the key to kicking any habit for good!

Summing it up

Be mindful of your decisions and be honest with yourself about what you need to change. Make a list of behaviors that are impeding your growth and take action to change them. Focus on progress, not unattained perfection. Once you let go of self-criticism for what you haven’t achieved yet, the process of change becomes much more rewarding.

In short: be good to yourself. If you make a mistake, acknowledge and take steps to correct it, rather than berating yourself. And don’t forget to notice the things you do right. Acknowledge your progress and enjoy your journey!