So yesterday I started a few things. First, I began a diet to take off the twenty pounds I’ve gained since last fall. I also decided that it was time to cut down on soft drinks and start to eat better, so I began a “healthy eating” program. And, in an effort to become more calm and focused, I committed to myself that I’d start meditating every day.
A bit ambitious maybe?
But I didn’t do badly. I ate pretty well, logging my food as I went. I only drank soda at meals, I walked at lunch and didn’t eat sweets all day. The only thing I didn’t do on my list was meditate.
However, I still didn’t do it all. And in the past that might have been enough to derail me. “Didn’t check everything off the list? Failure! Might as well quit! And since I quit, those cookies sure look good…” and I’d be off, often actually gaining weight on my “diets.”
This time when I felt that “all or nothing” energy kick in, I paused. Sure, I want to do the things on my list and more, and yesterday I didn’t. However rather than applying the standard of perfection I decided to apply the standard of imperfection. Because I’ve learned that we can really only accomplish what we set out to do by being the imperfect beings that we are. By being ok with the reality that we’re not going to get it right every time.
I’ve learned that a tolerance for imperfection is a necessary ingredient for ultimate success. In the mid-nineties my weight had gotten up to over two hundred pounds, and I embarked on a serious diet with my best friend, Ginnon. Ginnon and I attended Weight Watcher’s meetings religiously every Saturday morning and eventually we both got down to our goal weights, I lost 80 pounds and she lost 60. But we attributed our success as much to what we didn’t do as to what we did do. What we didn’t do was stick to our diet every single day. We pushed the heck out of that food plan, stretching it to its limits, going off as often as we could and still lose weight. We’d learned that the more flexible we were, the easier it was to stick to our diets, and our dedication to not being perfect dieters actually helped us stay committed.
I wrote a few weeks ago about intention and I think its key here. I have created a grand intention, a list of big changes, habits that I hope will become a new life style. Maybe I can’t do it all at once, maybe it will take a few weeks or even months to start meditating, maybe I’ll have days when I’m sluggish and I need my caffeine to keep me going, maybe I’ll eat too much at my college reunion this weekend.
But I believe that if I continue to return my focus to my intentions, my plan, then little by little it will become a part of me. As I practice being different, little pieces will click in as my new norm, and I can take on more and more of the changes I want to make. However I can only succeed if I’m willing to let go of trying to do it all perfectly. Because perfection is impossible. And the reality is that even if I do these things badly, I’m still doing them. I’m still a dieter, and a meditator, I’m still moving toward eating better. I’m just not there yet.
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