How to Let go of Perfection and Form Healthy Habits

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram. 

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“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

Salvador Dali

Trying to build new healthy habits can be pretty daunting.

We could be talking about eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, starting out meditation, whatever really… Often, people get the idea in their head that whatever they’re gonna be doing, they have to get it right first time. They have to be perfect, right away.

The goal is to eat healthily, so it has to be completely whole-food plant based, or not at all. They want to get fitter, so they have to run 5 times a week for the rest of their lives. They want to meditate regularly, so they have to do an hour every morning, from now until eternity.

When I started changing my habits, that’s the approach I tried to take at first. Overhaul everything at once, and strive for perfection. Go hard, or go home. But it’s not hard to see that this type of thinking is not all that productive, and usually isn’t gonna end well.

Nine times out of ten, if you try make big radical changes straight off the bat, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

What typically happens?

Yeah you may be able to keep the habit up for a week or two. Maybe three if you’re really committed. But soon enough, the inevitable happens. Everything will likely come crashing down. That tank of willpower will start to run dry, and the one day off from your healthy diet turns into three. The next thing you know, you’re back to square one. Perhaps even further back from square one actually. Because now as well as still having that unhealthy habit you were trying to change, you’re beating yourself up over having ‘failed’. You tell yourself that you’re weak, you have no strength, and you’ll never amount to anything. And then you carry on the same old story, just a little bit more beaten up and a little less confident.

Now that doesn’t sound all that fun does it? But we do it to ourselves all the time, often without realising. We repeat the same cycle of self destruction, completely unconsciously. Then we wonder why we have confidence issues…

But what if there was an alternative?

Instead of focusing on eating the perfect diet every day, following the perfect fitness routine, or sticking to a perfect meditation schedule, why don’t we let go of the idea of perfection?

Why not pretend for a minute that perfection is just this made up story that we tell ourselves. Something that doesn’t really exist. Something our minds fabricate. Completely made up.

Wait, we don’t even have to pretend… Perfection is an illusion. Perfection is made up. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has little blemishes, imperfections, struggles and failures. Very rarely does anyone get things right first time.

Even those people who seem to have those ‘perfect’ habits you’re striving towards face difficult times, and it’s unlikely they made a sudden jump to where they are now. Unless they had a very transformative moment in their life like a life threatening illness or near death experience, they likely didn’t start exercising 6 times a week straight off the bat.

I didn’t start eating a fully plant-based diet straight away, or meditating regularly. I made a gradual move towards those habits over a number of years, taking baby step. It’s ok to do that. In fact I think it’s probably the best way to go about  it.

To build lasting, sustainable, healthy habits: start slow. Have a goal in mind, sure. An idea of the general direction you want to head. But focus on the smallest thing you can do in the present moment to get a little closer to that goal. And do it. Don’t focus on the end goal and lose sight of the little things you can do right now.

Instead of going for a complete overhaul, make it easy for yourself. Make the habit forming process a gentle, positive experience, rather than something you have to struggle with and compete against. Life’s hard enough as it is.

Wanna exercise regularly? Start with a few minutes each morning, just moving your body. Wanna eat healthier? Start your day with a green smoothie, or a bowl of porridge. Wanna meditate regularly? Start with a minute a day.

When you’re comfortable with that small change, maybe after a month or so, then look to take it a little further or introduce a new habit. Yeah it will take time and effort, but rather than trying to overhaul everything at once and reach perfection right off, be patient, be mindful, and commit to the long haul. Embrace the process of moving slow and doing things properly.

Let go of the notion of perfection. Of the instant transformation, the quick fix, or the life hack. Focus on the little changes you can make. Work hard at them, and before you know it, they’ll add up to make some pretty radical shifts.

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Thanks for reading!

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Luke Jones

Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

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