This is something you already know, but perhaps you need reminding:
In order to succeed at any worthwhile long-term health goal (exercise, diet, stress reduction, whatever) you have to Give up on Being Perfect.
Duh, right? But somehow we all keep forgetting this.
The Pursuit of Perfection, and the all-or-nothing thinking that follows from this delusional quest, is one of the two most lethal motivational mistakes you can make. (The other is Not Actually Giving a Crap--this is what happens when you embark on a self-improvement program because someone else thinks it's a good idea. They may be right! Still, it ain't gonna work).
But unless you come to grips with your perfectionism early and often, you're doomed. You may start off making great progress but you won't be able to maintain it for more than a few weeks or months.
Because long-term success in any endeavor is about Mastering the Self-Improvement Process, not about how many calories you ate or how many miles you ran or how many dollars you earned or how many words you wrote on a particular day. You can have a "perfect" record for months, but if you're not learning how to cope with the imperfect days, the first few that come along can derail you completely.
It's a simple idea (that you've heard a bunch of times before) but the implications of this are really powerful. It means that for the long haul, it doesn't matter if you ran a marathon today or stayed in bed with the flu. Whether you ate 1500 calories or 5,000 calories.
What matters is that you did what you needed to do to Stay On Track.
Staying On Track is the most important thing. Over time, if you Stay on Track, there will be good days and bad days but the good days will eventually predominate. Healthy living is still a pain in the ass. But the longer you keep doing it? The less of a pain it is. It will probably never, however, be completely easy and fun. You will always be tempted to Slack. Thus you need to know how to Stay on Track for the rest of your life.
For Life. It blows but it's really important.
So what are some of the essential components of Staying on Track?
1. Staying Accountable and being Honest with yourself.
2. Acknowledging your Achievements and not just taking them for granted.
3. Trying your best but refusing to get all Punitive and Self-Hating when you inevitably screw up.
4. And so Not Quitting in self-disgust because you screwed up.
5. Then Starting Over if you do happen to quit in self-disgust despite being told Not To.
6. Setting Realistic goals and making positive changes Gradually and Steadily.
7. Accepting that while "All" may be nice, "Some" is better than "None" when it comes to good behavior.
8. Analyzing the Triggers for bad behavior and planning to Avoid them or Minimize their Impact in the future.
9. There are Lots more but this is starting to get Boring.
Note one important thing about all of these items (except for #9): They Are All Impossible if You Insist on Perfection!
You will find yourself lying to yourself if your goals are lofty and become inviolable rules in your own mind. You will "forget" to write things down; you will fudge and cheat and you will be psychologically Off Track no matter how well you are actually doing. You will frequently feel disappointed in yourself even when you are objectively doing good things. You won't praise yourself for your good days because they're ALL supposed to be good days. You will feel easily discouraged and tempted to just go off the wagon in a Big Way, because it's just too hard to be good. And you won't learn how to minimize problem behaviors if you're not admitting to them or accepting them as natural and inevitable and part of the process. Blah blah blah, you get the idea.
Enough Theory? Here is a practical example! This is an Actual Conversation that occurred in Crabby's brain several days ago.
Crabby: I know it's getting to be time for the gym but I don't think I'll go today. I hate the gym.
Crabby's Conscience: Just go.
Crabby: But I don't wannnnna. I go to the gym plenty. Leave me alone.
Crabby's Conscience: You're due for aerobics today. A long one, remember you said? And you're way way overdue for weights. You haven't done them since Monday. You can't skip out again.
Crabby: F*ck off. Go away.
Crabby: Are you gone?
(A minute or so later):
Crabby's Conscience: OK, now it's really time to go. Your caffeine will wear off.
Crabby: Shut up!
Crabby's Conscience: You'll be so happy once you're done.
Crabby: But I'll be so MISERABLE while I'm doing it! I'll go for a walk later. Scram!
(A few more minutes later)
Crabby's Conscience: So here's an idea.
Crabby: WTF? I said go away!
Crabby's Conscience: Suppose you just go to the gym and do a little of everything. A really quick aerobics. Only half your weights.
Crabby: But I'm supposed to do a long aerobics! And what about the other half of the weights? I can't do just part of a workout!
Crabby's Conscience: It's better than no workout. C'mon. Think of it as "fun sized." An "express" trip to the gym.
Crabby: Hmmm, "fun sized"... that does sound oddly less miserable that a regular workout...
And so dear readers, Crabby indeed went to the gym. She did only half a workout. (Some days when she bargains like this she goes on do what she'd normally do anyway, but this time, she really didn't feel like it.) She gave herself Full Credit Anyway and felt very happy and pleased with herself. She returned to the gym two days later, because she was Still On Track! And that time, she did every damn thing on the list and lived Happily Ever After. At least so far.)