Have you ever decided to follow a specific plan (let’s say a new diet for instance) and for the first few days or weeks you are on top of things? You stick to your guns no matter what and start to see some results. But after a little, while your effort feels exhausting and you find yourself letting one thing–a trip, a tough week at work, or a holiday celebration–trip you up. You feel discouraged that you couldn’t be “perfect” and end up throwing in the towel. You either decide this diet didn’t work for you or you wait for a “better time” in life to try it again. Sound familiar?
This “perfectionist mentality” is the “all-or-nothing” mindset, where we are either giving 100% effort or nothing at all. And it is exhausting, causing us to spin our wheels and get nowhere. So how do we change this? By practicing a mindset shift from “best” to “better.”
First, we don’t want to choose a plan of action that is too extreme. Oftentimes, we are fed up with our current state and are willing to try almost anything. We sign on for a huge overhaul and don’t necessarily think about how we will keep up the plan when we are tired, have a full schedule, or “aren’t feeling it.” Instead, we want to choose a course of action that is simple and doable even when doing it is not the most convenient. Simple does not mean easy, but it can be done and not when we are “white knuckling it” or relying on pure motivation to get us through. A lot of the time, we must choose what is “better” and not “best.”
Examine your current habits. Let’s say you eat out 5-7 times per week, and when you do, you order what looks good at the moment (because hey, if you’re going to pay for it, it may as well taste like the best thing you’ve ever eaten, right?). You look into a diet plan, and it only has you eating out once a week at best. You think “it’s okay! I’m going to see great results!” but you don’t take into account that you must plan, grocery shop, and set time aside to prepare those meals that you were eating out. What will you do when you have a full schedule, if you go out of town on the weekend and don’t grocery shop and prep food at your routine time, or you just don’t feel like cooking for the week?
What if instead of immediately replacing all those meals out, you decide to cut eating out to 4x per week in the beginning? Making 1-3 meals at home seems much more doable, and you can prepare 1 dish and have it for multiple meals. And maybe you work on having vegetables at each meal you order out instead of eating the side of fries. This is an example of the “better option.” Would “best” be to cook all your perfectly balanced meals at home? Probably. But how sustainable is that, especially when it’s such a contrast from what you are used to doing?
Looking for ways to choose the “better” option is how we develop consistency and see sustainable progress. We can be in any scenario and mindfully choose the better option, and feel good that we are still taking a step forward. Can we also choose the “best” option? Absolutely! But when we give ourselves permission to choose the “better” option when needed, we greatly expand our choices to make forward progress and take the pressure off of being “perfect.” We can account for small wins, knowing that who we are becoming today is better than who we were yesterday. Those small wins will roll into big wins, and years down the road you’ll say “X is part of who I am, this is just what I do” instead of “I’m trying this new diet, hope it works!” You’ll have a much better relationship with yourself and trust that when you say you’ll do something, you’ll follow through because you have a great track record and believe in yourself. So look at the next choice that is in front of you today–what is the better option?