With the holidays behind us and a new year on the horizon, many of us are compelled to make changes in our lives. Whether these changes are aimed at improving health or encouraging better athletic performance, they are much more likely to stick if we don't aim for perfection. In my experience as a coach, I have seen that lasting change comes from a realistic approach to daily life.
What is the difference between a "perfectionist" approach and a "realist" approach? A perfectionist approach places very strict rules around what should and shouldn't happen. When something occurs that bends or breaks those rules, there are unpleasant consequences. Let me provide an example: I resolve to wake up at 5:30 AM every week day morning to complete a 60 minute workout before work. I diligently wake with my alarm on Monday and Tuesday, but come Wednesday morning, I feel extra tired and oversleep by 30 minutes. I skip my workout and go on with my day but I feel guilty all day. I repeat some negative messages to myself like "I'm lazy, I should have got out of bed and done that workout. Other people would have been able to do it, why not me?". I may continue with, "I am not very disciplined; until I can learn to be more disciplined, I shouldn't bother working out."
By contrast, a realist approach to this situation would be: when I oversleep, I get out of bed as soon as I can muster and squeeze in 20 minutes of activity such as a quick body-weight workout in my living room or a brisk walk with my dog. I chalk this morning up to being a little extra tired and I review my daily habits such as my bedtime and daily nutrition to see if there are some small changes I can make that will help me wake a little earlier and feel more energized. I say things to myself like "I will get 20 min of activity in before work and perhaps try for another 20 minutes after work if I feel up to it. Tonight I will ensure I eat well and get into bed 15 minutes earlier". The realistic approach removes the judgment and the "all or nothing" attitude.
We are much more likely to make lasting changes when the actions required to make those changes are realistically within reach AND we don't punish ourselves for slipping up, especially when a situation is not under our control. Let this new year be a time that you shift towards sustainable changes to your habits with enough grace for some flexibility when "life happens". Here's to a healthy and prosperous 2019!