There is something of the perfectionist in all of us. We may not be aware of it, but in some aspect of our lives, careers and relationships, we want things to be perfect. While this can be a great motivating force, the desire to be perfect can also serve as a huge blockage to us taking the small steps to reach our goals – in life, healthy living and fitness.
I’ve been thinking about this recently because I am currently learning to surf. I love it! Or I love parts of it. Being out in the ocean, immersing myself in natural surrounds, the thrill of jumping up on the board (or trying to!) and catching a small wave to the shore is an incredible rush. In the process of learning though, there are so many aspects of surfing that I am bad, no, terrible at. I get scared often, I’m always in the way of other surfers, I fall off a lot, sometimes I hurt myself and on the odd occasion, I don’t even want to get out of the car because there are so many surfers who are better than me and I feel too self-conscious to even try.
I have a feeling we can all relate to this in our lives. We want to be perfect at something instantly; I want to be a perfect surfer instantly, it’s embarrassing and hard to go through the months and years of being mediocre and less-than-average at something. As an adult, I expect to be good at everything I do. Talk about unrealistic!
So, how can we make more achievable life, health and fitness goals that allow shaky steps without self-criticism? In a society that is so driven towards perfection – perfect bodies, perfect celebrities, perfect homes and photo-shopped images – we don’t want to be the one who is still learning, making mistakes, or just doing ordinary, simple things that make our lives better. We want to push ourselves to the extreme to match the perfection we see around us. But, does this make us feel good about ourselves?
If we set unrealistic goals – like being perfectly healthy instantly, or expecting to run 10km the first day we go for a jog – the sheer weight of disappointment can stop us from taking small steps forward. Maybe you don’t buy a pair of new running shoes because you don’t want to be the sweaty person walking when all your friends are running. You commit to cutting all sugar from your diet forever – after a week you can’t maintain your promise so you binge on sugary treats and try to forget you ever made such a silly promise in the first place. Do you see what I’m getting at here? One friend felt she was drinking too much coffee. She decided to rid her diet of all caffeine, immediately. After a month of peppermint tea, she had such bad coffee cravings, she went back to her addiction, only, it doubled! Likewise, when I expect to be as good as all the other surfers in Bondi who’ve been catching waves for decades, of course I feel too intimidated and nervous to even get in the water.
To stop the cycle of making resolutions only to break them – perhaps we need to go easy on ourselves, we need to take small steps. Like, have coffee every other day for a start and see how it goes. Or, start yoga three times a week instead of every single day with no rest. The goal can always be moved as we progress, but having small successes motivate us to keep going.
What I’m aiming for now with my surfing and my life are achievable goals. To do that, I have to be okay to go slowly, to let myself be bad at something for a while. Less stress, less misery and more chance of lasting change. I’m sure if I can be humble enough to view myself as a beginner surfer (yes, just like all the kids on their boards in the whitewash with their parents), I’ll have more fun, get in the water every chance I get and over time, I might even graduate to surfing the big waves of my dreams.
To find more about Ere Perez: www.ereperez.com
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