That’s how I would describe my own journey over the last 10 or so years.
I spent much of my teens twenties trying to make big changes to become fitter, more active, develop a more positive mind set and gain ‘control’ over my weight.
I spent much of my teens and twenties setting goals that, in hindsight, were really difficult to achieve.
I would want to lose a certain amount of weight for a friend’s wedding or be determined to start and maintain a 5 days a week gym programme at the same time as working 2 jobs and studying at university and, laterally working long, unsociable hours as a junior doctor and still studying for exams!
Like many people, if I missed a couple of days at the gym or had a few days when I ‘fell off the diet wagon’ I would feel totally disheartened by the fact that i had failed to stick perfectly to the plan and give up.
Where did that get me?
Not very far.
After many years of going round in circles with my ‘all or nothing’ approach, I decided to try a different tack.
I realised that, unless I gave up my social life all together (not an option if I wanted to be happy) that life was never going to be stress free or quiet enough to stick rigidly to any sort of diet/exercise/stress management plan.
Instead, I turned my focus away form trying to do things perfectly and more towards trying to make smaller changes more consistently.
I might be a bit more mindful of eating a really well balanced diet with attention to my portion control and sensible snacking 80% of the time but I wouldn’t get down hearted or annoyed at myself if I didn’t manage to do this 100% of the time.
Similarly, if I managed the gym 3 times a week most weeks but some weeks don’t go at all or replace it with a walk with the kids or playing in the park with them then I still consider that as a step towards my goals of being more active and being a good role model for my kids.
The focus is now on living life closer to my personal core values of staying physically and mentally fit and healthy to be able to look after myself and my family for as long as possible at the same time as making sure I’m looking after my mental health and showing myself a bit more compassion than I did when I was younger.
Too often, we get caught up in the idea that we have to execute everything perfectly in order to succeed and that is JUST NOT TRUE!
In fact, it has been shown that BEING A LITTLE LESS PERFECT, MAKES IT EASIER TO BE MORE CONSISTENT.
Consistency is vitally important if you want to achieve success in anything.
Can you be PERFECTLY CONSISTENT?
I don’t think most of us can be.
Building up a small business-advertise consistently, give good service consistently. Is the business growing daily? Probably not. But it will grow in time.
Professional footballers/tennis players/athletes-training consistently. Do they have off days? They definitely do but they get back to training the next day again.
Authors-writing consistently. Do they ever write a bad piece? yes, but they keep writing.
Being kinder to yourself when you miss a gym session, have second or third helpings at the dessert table or don’t get everything on the ‘to do list’ done improves your self esteem which helps your motivation and improves you chances of successful change in the long run.
Doing your best is enough.
Accept that you will have days where you don’t achieve what you set out to achieve. In fact, EMBRACE those days. Those days are what make you human.
Plan for failure. it doesn’t mean you expect it to happen but the likelihood is you are not going to get through ‘normal’ life without missing a day at the gym, eating and drinking more on holidays or nights out or never missing a mornings meditation/day of writing/handing in a piece of work.
If you can get through those days and move onto the next day with the same enthusiasm as you started out with, you will be well on your way to making lasting change.
The real test or challenge isn’t making the change in the first place.
Anyone can get to the gym 3 times a week for a week or 2 or even 3. But what about that 4th week when work needs you to work an extra shift, or when one of the kids is sick or you have a stinking cold?
The real test is getting back on track, dusting yourself off and not letting missing a few gym sessions throw you off track.
Have the self compassion to get back on it. If you do, those few missed workouts won’t matter in a few weeks.
Plan your next step into your diary and get going with it again.
I love listening to podcasts. Something that someone said on one recently really resonated with me.
Emma Storey Gordon is an online personal trainer with years of experience of fitness and weight loss. She has a degree fitness and currently works in research at Napier University. Her current research is into the effects of exercise on patients who have had breast cancer and she has previously been involved in researching the metabolic changes involved in type 2 diabetes.
You can find her on Instagram @esgfitness and she had 2 podcasts, ESGfitness and fitness unfiltered both of which are on my weekly podcast list.
She talks and writes often about ‘imperfect action’ as being better than no action at all. Again the stress here is on doing SOMETHING that falls short of what you ideally set out to do on any given day is better than doing NOTHING and she is a strong advocate of the idea that you can still reach your goals with ‘imperfect action’ and that, in fact, it’s easier to do things ‘imperfectly’ in the long run that ‘perfectly’ even in the short term.
As we have said many many times over the last year or so, even the smallest, seemingly insignificant action islawyas better than not starting at all. The smallest step in the right direction, when done consistently becomes a habit which can lead to big benefits in terms of your health.
Walking for five minutes is better than not walking at all.
Eating fruit or veg 3 times a week if better than not eating any fruit or veg.
Getting ten minutes of headspace a day is better than no time to reflect at all.
Doing something thoughtful for someone once a week is better than not doing anything at all.
Playing guitar for 2 minutes a day will get you further than not practising at all.
It all adds up. It all gets you closer to living the type of life you want to live.
Consistency is key. Perfection pales in comparison.