Done is Better Than Perfect

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Group of sportive people in a gym training - Multiracial group of athletes stretching before starting a workout session
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Stop “Should-ing” All Over Yourself and Take a Step Towards Your Fitter Future You! 

Too many of us get in our own way. Our quest for “perfect” keeps us from trending in a positive direction. Instead of taking the small steps forward needed to create a positive upward health spiral, we “should” all over ourselves. We let our quest for perfect drive our self-talk: I should still look like I did when I was 30, I should eat more like my sister, I should work out like JLo, I should have lost the baby weight already….

Brené Brown, the author of many of my favorite books including The Gifts of Vulnerability, refers to perfectionism as the “great oppressor.” Since there is no such thing as the “perfect” anything, the act of searching for perfection becomes the enemy of just getting crap done! 

The cure is to embrace that “done is better than perfect,” that all positive steps forward are better than getting so unproductively negative that we stay stuck in our unhealthy habits. Think “progress over perfection.” 

Aim to trend positive, to have more healthy habits next month than you have this month. 

So, how do you “trend positive”?

1“Vacillate at a higher level”

We all have better and worse days and weeks. Some weeks you will work out more than others. Some weeks you will get more sleep. You will toggle slightly — we all do — we are humans, not robots. 

The trick is to trend positive so that your swings are smaller and in a different, healthier paradigm. Aim to work out 2-4 days per week vs 0-1 and to have treated 1-3 days per week vs daily.

Basically, stop with the “perfect” and work to be consistently good or consistently better.

2Find things you can do consistently or at least daily“ish” 

Find activities you enjoy and healthy foods that you find yummy — or at least “fun enough” and “yummy enough” so that you can choose to do them daily“ish.” Consistency is key. (I must credit the motto of daily“ish” to Dan Harris, the author of Ten Percent Happier and the host of the podcast of the same name.)Dan’s point — which is mine as well — is that the healthy choice should be the norm and the digression should be the anomaly. 

If you love specific vegetables, research recipes that include those foods. If you enjoy playing a particular sport, join a league. If you enjoy running, block that into your schedule. If you hate something, don’t program it. Sounds obvious, but you would be amazed by the number of people who say “I can’t make myself run or do burpees so I might as well not work out.” 

No one can make themselves do or eat things that they hate over the long term. To be consistent the choice can’t be repulsive…it must be something you can do daily“ish.” To make the healthy choice the norm doesn’t mean making the habit “perfect”—it just means doing it more regularly than not doing it. 

3Don’t “mow the lawn when the house is on fire” 

If your metaphorical health house is on fire — i.e., you don’t get daily steps and you survive on processed foods — there is absolutely no need to worry if cooked carrots have a higher glycemic load than raw carrots or if the bike is a better workout than walking. 

Any movement will be better than nothing. You can always tweak your food and exercise regimen to make it harder or more sophisticated, but if you never start you have nothing to tweak. If you never start you will simply be left with a bunch of “tomorrows.” 

As James Clear, the author of the fantastic book Atomic Habits, would say, “standardize before you optimize.” Standardize being aware of your choices. Once you are in the habit of moving and eating better, you can start to optimize. 

4Use the 10-minute rule

When you don’t want to exercise, tell yourself that you must do something — anything — for 10 minutes. If you want to stop after 10 minutes you can. Usually, once you have done the first 10 you just continue. Jess Sims, one of my favourite Peloton instructors, always starts her classes by saying “the hardest part of the workout is check, done.” Usually, the hardest part of any workout is creating the ignition energy to start. If you do decide to stop after 10 minutes, no problem. Something is always better than nothing. Ten minutes daily is 70 minutes a week, which is 70 more minutes than nothing. 

5Thrive in your OWN lane!!

Stop with the comparison game. It is not a helpful sandbox to enter. 

There is no one perfect way of eating or moving — there is only what works for YOU. Sure, there are principles one should follow — avoid sugar and processed foods, eat more fruits and vegetables, stop eating when full, eat when you are hungry, etc. — but the principles need to be tailored to your life realities, your genetics, your exercise and injury history, and your goals. 

Fork perfect! Meet yourself where you are and progress appropriately from there.

Concluding thoughts

You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to get great! Stop “should-ing all of yourself.” Take one small step forward TODAY. Go for a walk. Have some water. Just ACT. Today is the only day we have direct control over. 

ABOUT KATHLEEN TROTTER

Photo: Agnes Kiesz

Kathleen Trotter, MSc, is a fitness expert, media personality, personal trainer, writer, and author of Finding Your Fit: A Compassionate Trainer’s Guide to Making Fitness a Lifelong Habit and Your Fittest Future Self. Making Choices Today for a Happier, Healthier, Fitter Future You. She has been a personal trainer and fitness expert for almost twenty years. Kathleen has an engaged audience of 15.3K followers on Instagram and 2.6K loyal Facebook followers.