Often, we think in terms of perfection. Everything in its place, just the way it is supposed to be.
Anything short of that is considered disappointing. But, what happens when we fall short of these expectations?
When the kitchen always has pieces of mail scattered on the dining table and crumbs on the floor. When the last __ (insert poundage here) circumvents and clings to your body.
When there are connections and family bonds that are not as strong or genuine as desired.
We can fixate on making things perfect. We strive for the ideal– no matter how unrealistic it may be. But what if there was a shift in mindset? Instead of perfection and idealism, we simply strive to do better. Not perfect, just better. A step towards improvement.
What would happen if we lived with compassion for ourselves, and instead of focusing on idyllic situations we moved in the direction of positive change? It doesn’t have to be big strides, but instead small, digestible modifications that lead to a realistic path to health and wellness.
Here are five things you can start doing today to live a life less perfect, yet more real:
- Keep the focus on long-term change, not short-range finish lines. This may mean taking smaller steps that can build up to lifelong change. For example, if you want to get more hours of sleep, rather than going from five hours a night to eight hours in one week, work on smaller increments. Perhaps that looks like five and half hours for a few weeks. Then maybe six hours. If you stick with it, you will reach your goal before you know it. Yes, it will take longer to get to eight hours of daily sleep, but keep in mind you are trying to make changes that will last for years to come. Taking giant leaps can often times be overwhelming, and once the novelty wears off, old habits can easily creep back up.
- Are your well-meaning goals achievable right now? You may decide in September that you want to run a marathon for the first time in November — having never run a mile. Ever. Is it admirable to run a marathon? Sure. Is it doable? Of course. Is it realistic to go from zero miles to 26.2 in two months? Ummm. The intent is in the right place, but reality may dictate a far different result than expected. That is not to say someone who has never ran will never run a marathon. It is very doable to work up to it. Perhaps the immediate goal is to build up to running a mile, then two, then three. Down the road a marathon appears, and it is totally feasible to sign up for it.
- Reality is where change begins. Setting expectations that can and will happen are better than hoping for perfection and then becoming disappointed when it doesn’t appear. Asking yourself, “Can this really happen?” helps in setting realistic expectations. “I will never eat another cookie” only works if you genuinely feel you will be happy never eating another cookie again. If that does not bring a smile to your face, then figure out where your reality lies. Only homemade cookies? Only when your cravings hit an 8 out of 10? You should stick to habits that are in your reality – not someone else’s. Ask yourself if you can see yourself doing this for the next five years. For example, can you see yourself going to the gym every day for the next five years? If not, your plan may not realistic, and you can tweak it to make it so. Perhaps you see yourself hitting the gym three times a week, and hey, if you end up going seven days some weeks here and there that is just a bonus! Sustainability is key, but that will only come if the habits you are building fit your reality.
- Is doing [______] going to make me happy? If your goal is to only eat homemade meals ask yourself, “Am I going to be satisfied?”. Are you going to be happy never enjoying the newest restaurants or meeting friends downtown for brunch? If not, then it’s time to reassess. Most people enjoy a home-cooked meal, but only eating home-cooked meals can become redundant and maybe even tiring. Asking yourself — truly asking yourself — if doing this makes me happy can help decipher whether something is realistic (for you). You may end up realizing this may mean eating out once a month or even once a week is what will make you happy – and that is okay!
- Why. This is connected to #4, but stopping to ask why you are doing something can help shed light on the purpose behind it. Are you joining a gym because your friend recently lost fifteen pounds? Are you cutting down on your sleep to spend time on a work presentation because most presentations at your work last 50 minutes and yours is only 45? What is your “why”? If it is connected to someone else’s definition of perfect, why does it have to be your definition as well? Is it realistic to achieve a goal others have set for themselves? If the goal is not yours, then focus on something that is yours. Do not chase a world made for someone else. It is not always sensible to do so, and chances are you will not achieve the same results that person was able to get. Focusing on what is realistic for you to achieve can produce long-term results. And as a bonus you may end up more pleased with the outcome.
Ultimately, it is the realistic habits that stick because they are genuine and true to you. You find more of a connection to them, which makes them easier to maintain. And making a habit easier to do means you will stick to it, which will eventually reap results. Your routine does not have to be perfect. You do not have to be perfect. You just have to be consistent and real.
What will you do to set yourself on a realistic path to wellness?