“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”
So many times I hear about friends “falling off the wagon” with their diets, about people for whom one drink with friends turned into a couple of bottles of wine, and a kebab, and then pizza for the hangover. About someone having a treat, like a slice of cake, then the whole cake then…despair and self-hatred. About someone very disciplined having to attend a social or work function, having very few healthy options and therefore going face first into the buffet with a “side order of chips please”. A moment of pleasure followed by days being wracked with guilt.
I see it within exercise too, constant comparing to others, telling ourselves that we should have done better, or more, or faster.
The thing that all of these patterns of behaviour have in common is the pursuit of perfect. Every day we put ourselves under enormous pressure and scrutiny, telling ourselves “that’s not good enough”, “you could’ve done better than that”, “your diet isn’t as good as X”, “you don’t run/lift/cycle as well/as fast/as much, as X”. At home, at work, at the gym, with friends. We are constantly trying to be better, and whilst in itself striving to be better isn’t a bad thing, when it comes with negative self-talk, and if we deviate, even slightly from the plan, we chuck the towel in, that’s when it is negative behaviour.
Sometimes it is something we are not 100% in control of, attending a work function, birthdays, weddings, Christmas. Life getting in the way of going to the gym, for a run or cooking a healthy meal.
Sometimes it is something that we absolutely ARE in control of, like portions and second helpings, not being bothered to exercise, watching an extra episode of the Game of Thrones instead of going to bed at a decent time….that kind of thing.
So what can you do about it, how do we avoid “falling off the wagon”, self-sabotage and being sent into a spiral of poor behaviour or negative self-talk by a couple of slip ups?
Someone once said to me “when you’re travelling or eating somewhere where you cannot control the options, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to not SUCK” And that’s the kicker-we cannot be perfect all of the time, no one has the perfect diet, exercise regime, meditation practice etc. But if you can identify that your slip up was a blip on an otherwise positive trend, and move on, making the next meal as nutritious as you can, or the next workout as fulfilling as possible, then you are well on the way to GOOD, and let’s face it consistent “good” is much better than lurching between “perfect” and “terrible”.
And to address the negative self-talk…would you talk to your best friend like that? No? Well you are your best friend, so remember that next time you start going down the “not good enough” road.