We all have goals. We all have dreams and aspirations when it comes to building the life we want.
But I think it’s time for a healthy and balanced reminder: don’t beat yourself up.
I don’t know about you, but I can be so hard on myself. I have a list of self-imposed “rules” that I try to abide by. Keep in mind – there are things that ONLY I consider important. No one else is asking me to live by these “rules.” Many of the people in my life don’t even know about half of my “rules.” They are purely a creation of my own brain. My own personality wanting to control and “win at life.” (I’m an 3 on the Enneagram in case you were wondering!)
Progress, Not Perfection
I’m all about resolutions and going after the things we want most out of life. Making healthy habits and small changes.
But the name of the game has to be grace and balance. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. I will always fail to live up to my own impossible standards. Standards that I wouldn’t hold anyone else to.
Maybe it’s not your personality to beat yourself up, but you can’t help but fear like a failure due to the extremes presented on the Internet. The individuals who get the most attention are the BEST of the BEST of the BEST. Most of us won’t fall into this category. But that’s okay.
Here’s the thing about doing it all: even if you can do it all, no one can do it all WELL.-Emily Ley, Grace Not Perfection
Don’t let your idea of perfection get in the way of small, habitual progress.
Build Habits, not Streaks
By now you’ve probably missed a day or two of your most recent New Years resolution. If you were chasing after perfection you would throw in the towel about now. What’s the point if it isn’t perfect, right? Wrong!
Resolutions often don’t stick because people are more focused on not missing a day than on making a lifestyle change.
A lifestyle change is wider and broader than a resolution. With a lifestyle change, it’s expected to skip a day here or there. In fact, no one is standing behind you with a clipboard keeping track.
It’s so easy for some of us to take ideals that we care about (good!) and approach them in a strict or legalistic way (bad!) We end up punishing ourselves for the most basic and trivial things like eating a cookie at a party, missing a workout when we’re sick, or breaking down and purchasing something small while on a shopping ban (oops!)
I’m here to remind you, and myself, that while these kinds of goals and resolutions are good overall, the obsession mentality isn’t healthy.
I’ve already missed at least 4 of my Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga this month. The little perfectionist in me hates this. However, the gentle realist in me says “Doing yoga is a lifestyle change and I’m thankful that I do it a lot more than I did three years ago!”
Have you ever noticed that when we turn a lifestyle change we’re excited about into a list of non-negotiable do’s and don’ts – we strip it of its magical quality? Suddenly something we were excited about doing is an obligation hanging over our heads? If we instead approach the lifestyle change with grace, it has a greater tendency of sticking, even if we slip up sometimes.
I’ve found this to be true in my low-buy year so far. The fact that it is a low-buy instead of a no-buy builds grace into the challenge from the get-go. I’ve had a small shopping list of things that I’m “allowed” to purchase to help keep me on track. The goal isn’t to make a lot of rules for myself, the goal is to be more mindful about what I bring into my home this year. The idea isn’t to deprive myself, but to change my lifestyle for the better – not just in the short-term but in the long-term.
The Invisible Line
There is an invisible line that I like to imagine when it comes to the things I value. The line is different for everyone, but it helps me make those small daily decisions that add up to the purposeful life I want.
When I have to make a decision, I ask myself: is this over the line or under the line?
What is over the line and under the line?
For your time?
For example, I realized this year that alcohol is no longer over my line. Some sweets aren’t over the line, but others are. (I will never turn down homemade chocolate cheesecake!)
For me, a sit down date with “real” food at the airport is over the line – even if it costs a little more than nibbling on snacks from my backpack. It makes the whole travel day less tiring and mundane.
On the other hand, sugary sweets for breakfast, even in the spirit of being festive, is under the line. (I found this out over Christmas. I have to have a hearty breakfast, never sugar, to feel my best in the morning!)
What I realized was this: it is easier to stick to a resolution or a goal when you actually decide you don’t like how it makes you feel.
Saying no to things under the line isn’t punishing yourself. Saying no is the healthy decision. The one that you know from experience makes you feel best.
Saying yes to things above the line isn’t something to feel guilt about. It is something you know from experience is worth a “luxurious-feeling splurge.”
When we think of our resolutions this way – in terms of whether or not the thing is above or below the line of “worth it” – we are that much closer to finding the real-life balance of making the habit stick.
Keep in mind that your line is different from your spouse’s or from your friend’s. These aren’t moral dilemmas I’m talking about. They are elective lifelong habit changes. It’s not our job to judge or condemn the lifestyle changes of others. The best we can do is make changes for ourselves and tell others how beneficial it has been for us!
This isn’t an overnight process. Determining where the line is for you in different situations might take years of paying attention to it. I’ve only just begun to figure out which “indulgences” are over the line for me, but I’ve already noticed how much easier it makes those decisions in the moment. Some things that I used to think were over the line are now under the line. I’ve lived long enough to see the long-term effects of some things, so my opinion of them has changed.
How can we better incorporate lifestyle changes, not resolutions, into our lives?
How can we start noticing the invisible line as it relates to different situations? Will realizing what we value most make those habits easier to keep?
What does grace and balance look like in our everyday lives? How can we let go of perfectionist and legalistic tendencies and simply embrace the progress? I’m interested to know your personal examples! Thank you, friends!
Cover photo by Alex Marie Photo Co.
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