Want to Change your Habits? Trade Perfection for Progress.
It’s back to school time for the under-18 set, but we can all use a refresher course in living a healthy, happy life. The first step? Giving up on perfection. Sure, you may want to exercise more, eat better, lower stress, lose weight, or all of the above. But sky-high expectations and rigid routines tend to backfire, says Roxanne Sukol, M.D., medical director at Cleveland Clinic Wellness. “Here’s how perfection works,” she explains. “You get yourself to the gym every single day for six days, or six weeks, or six months—like a machine. Then something happens—a nasty cold, a sprained ankle, a root canal, shingles, or even something good, like a vacation. And you just cannot get yourself back on track.” The same thing can happen with the “perfect” meditation schedule or meal plan. The fact is, we’re not machines—we’re human beings, and our days don’t always go according to plan. Think practice and progress, not perfection, and remember that something is a lot more than nothing. “Going for a walk, no matter how short or long, is so very much more than not walking at all,” notes Sukol. Taking two minutes to close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing or swapping your usual bagel breakfast for steel-cut oats is much more than nothing, too. You won’t get it right all the time. And you don’t have to. Each day is filled with dozens of opportunities to make choices that benefit your health. Do what you can and remember that small changes can have big results—and that progress is a great goal.