Choose Progress over Perfection

2, 3, or 4 days out of 7 is better than 0 out of 7.

For too long, habits were all or nothing propositions for me. If I didn’t get it right every single day of the week, my effort was a failure.


Learning to Appreciate and Build on the Progress

My wife and I have been in and out of counting points Weight Watchers style for the last couple years.

I would keep my points religiously through Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, and then it would happen. A work lunch. The guy in the office who insists on bringing donuts every Friday. Wearily grabbing a pizza on Thursday or Friday night.

Then I decide that Saturday and Sunday are free days until I recommit on Monday.

I’d lambaste myself internally for bailing on the plan. I’d call myself weak. I’d mumble expletives in my own general direction failing to keep the commitments.

Eventually, I’d stop trying for a few weeks.

My main problem was this:  I disregarded the good days in light of a couple bad days.

Instead of leveraging the fact that I had three good days out of seven, I’d focus on the four bad days.

Yes, yes, yes it’s much better to have all seven days full of perfect habit-keeping. And I’m not writing this post to give us all excuses. Lord knows neither you nor I need help in the excuse department.

But railing against myself for the bad never helped create the good. On the other hand, focusing on the good created more good.

Focusing on the good days…

  1. Solidifies helpful emotions: When I focus on the days I keep my habit, I reinforce how well I feel and make me hungry to put myself in the position to experience the same emotions again.
  2. Reminds me of the positive results: When I focus on the days I pray and study the Bible, I remember how my perspective shifts from selfishness to… not quite as selfish.
  3. Hinders destructive self-talk: When I focus on the days I succeed, I forget to verbally abuse myself (that might be a bit strong, but you get the picture).
  4. Encourages a more likable attitude: When I focus on the days I keep my commitments, I smile a bit more and generally a more pleasant person.

There are times when my wife will say something to this effect: “I’m just going to leave you alone and let you get over whatever it is you’re sulking about.”

Not always, but often, I’m sulking because I’m angry at my own imperfection. I only hit my stride 3 of 7 days, not every single day of the week. For some reason, that signified failure.

What in the world do I expect? Even most people who are extremely self-disciplined didn’t start out that way. One day led to two days which led to three.

My admonition to you (and me): Celebrate when you keep your commitments. Acknowledge the hiccup (with grace) Challenge yourself to add another day the next time.

Improvement isn’t all or nothing.

Enjoy the progress.

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