Prioritise Progression Over Perfection (and Get Better Results)

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It's my mission in life to become the very best version of myself,
sharing my journey with others through my Best Self Blog and Podcast in the hope of connecting with like-minded women.

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I’m not brilliant with too many rules in life.  I like to make them – not follow them.  Probably why I’ve worked for myself for over fifteen years.  I don’t like things being imposed on me – times, dates, obligations. I love to feel in flow and follow my mood. I get bored if my week looks the same all the time and I feel like there is no variety in my life.

However rituals.  Now there’s a word I love.  Reliable, soothing, grounding, predictable rituals.

So last summer I had a super interesting experience.

The Summer Body Challenge

I signed up to a ‘Summer Body Challenge’.  The trainer looked like she knew her stuff and I love a challenge. I was inspired by the messaging around the challenge and wanted to lose a few pounds so it was a no-brainer. I paid my money and waited for the information to start filtering in.

Challenges are also something I love.  To me, a challenge is an opportunity for growth, for learning, for moving forward.  It’s what I live for. Sign me up.

I think these kinds of challenges are BRILLIANT for a kick start – fantastic if you need some focus and motivation and would highly recommend them….however for me, this time, things went a bit wrong ….

The Challenge I Was Not Expecting.

The challenge was eight weeks.  The challenge was simple.  Follow the food plan, train three times a week, and do the weekly challenge we send you by email.  Join the Facebook Group, and post about your journey.  Easy.  I was pretty much doing this already – I just needed this extra push (at least that’s what I thought).

Before the challenge I was doing consistently 4 – 5 workouts consistently each week, and eating clean 80-90% of the week.

As soon as I felt the pressure of the challenge, I started to sabotage myself.  It was just so weird.  I’d never experienced this before.  What was happening?

Something fundamental about this challenge was all of a sudden making me feel stressed, and I stopped enjoying my usual workouts and diet.

Whilst some of the ladies doing the challenge were having phenomonal results, I was going backwards, then round in circles. Seeing how great everyone else was doing was making me MORE stressed!  Hmmm. Interesting.

So, as I do, I reflected, analysed and started to look for answers to my behaviour.

More Work = More Stressed

Turns out there was one big factor, that has caused a bit of a revelation.

By signing up the challenge I’d inadvertently given my brain more to do.  I’d made my life more hard work by having to now follow a meal plan and post about my journey on this Facebook page!

Now I HAD to follow through.  Even though I eat clean 80/90% of the time and often fill in food diaries for myself, now I HAD to follow this food plan. If I didn’t I would FAIL.  Failure did not feel like something I wanted to do, be or have at the time. I had a lot of issues around ‘failing’.

This concept of failing did something weird to me, and I started to feel more and more overwhelmed.  All of sudden I didn’t feel like I was doing these things for me anymore.  I felt like I was doing them to prove I was doing them.  I felt like I was competing with other people (rather than with myself). I felt like I needed to follow the plan perfectly (where as before I had been focussing on progression).

Now in reality, the challenge wasn’t really anything extra to do at all on paper, but in my often overwhelmed and busy head, it had added more things I needed to do … PERFECTLY, in order to achieve ‘success’ with the challenge.  Perfect being the key word here.

Little Miss Perfect

I was getting so frustrated because I was forgetting to complete the homework, not following the food plan and I had a holiday booked which would ‘ruin’ my efforts and mean I would ‘fail’ the challenge.

I was spending so much energy focused on how to stick to the challenge and play by the rules – I was trying to be PERFECT – and it actually started to stress me out.

In my head I could either do it ‘perfectly’ or I’d ‘fail’.

It was here I started to have a major light-bulb moment.  When I try to do things perfectly, I create a situation where I either win or lose. It’s black or white, good or bad.

However when I make the goal simply to improve myself, I always progress and feel a sense of accomplishment.

What Has Worked for Me

When I sat down to analyse the situation I found I had the same pattern with detoxes, or strict juice diets and all that stupid stuff.  I never stick to the rules.  Then I feel like I’ve ‘failed’.  Then I punish myself by eating more rubbish than I would normally or working out less to prove the theory, that in fact, I am a failure.

Turns out, I kind of liked how I was doing things, and the results I was getting, so all I had done was added more pressure in my life, I didn’t need.  The pressure to do things ‘perfectly’, when in fact, what I was doing was leading to personal and physical growth already.

For me, over the years, it has created a massive mental shift and empowered me, when I stopped focusing on trying to do things ‘perfectly’ and instead focused on consistency.

I needed the Summer Body Challenge to finally help me realise – as long as I focus on growth and improvement, I can never fail. There’s no point in trying to do things perfectly because humans are inherently flawed with up and down days.


In fact challenges, classes and plans to follow are often brilliant when you are starting out with something new and unfamiliar because it REMOVES the guesswork and brain work in having to figure it all out. Someone has done it for you!!

But for me in this one occasion, I had added pressure in to my life, that I didn’t need, and didn’t benefit me.

The All or Nothing Brain

Why do I find it so hard to stick to the rules?  Because it involves trying to be ‘perfect’ in my head, and this puts too much pressure on me as they aren’t the rules I WANT to live by.  It’s too hard, it feels miserable and I resent it.  I want balance (I am a Libra after all).  I want life ON MY TERMS.

I approach my life in a certain way.  Growth is hugely important to me.  Learning, growing, education, getting steadily better in one or more areas.  I’ve always been this way.  I like to challenge myself.

I want to ENJOY life.  Challenges, for me, are (as the name implies) challenging, but they don’t feel HARD.

Hard makes me feel bored, flat, tired or deprived (diets and detoxes).  Challenged makes me feel alive (lifting heavier weights or doing a new exercise).

The fact I had ‘committed’ to following a food plan (rather than eating nourishing meals that I actually wanted to eat) and doing little challenges AND had another Facebook Page to monitor in my feed, felt at the time too hard.  Turns out this was all it took to throw me off my game.  Just this tiny change….It was fascinating.

How could something so simple, and so similar to what I was already doing tip the scales for me in such a dramatic way….?

All because I focused in on following something perfectly rather than progressing towards my goal.

Do you often feel like you are ‘failing’ on diets? Do you feel like you are ‘all or nothing’ when it comes to exercise? Do you start something positively and then have one bad day and throw the towel in completely? If so, you could be a closet perfectionist like I was! Let me know if this resonated in the comments below!

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