There are times when we all get stuck in the limbo land of ambivalence, where our desire to change a particular behavior or habit is pitted against the comfort or convenience of the status quo. Sometimes, it is the thought of needing to be perfect in our attempt to change a behavior that tips the scale in favor of doing nothing. Perhaps we want to start an exercise routine and instead of starting at point zero, we try to jump into the routine we did at our peak fitness level, or maybe we’d like to quit smoking and tell ourselves we need to quit cold turkey. We find ourselves in a dilemma: unhappy with the current state of affairs and yet, unable to reach the high standard we set for ourselves.
I have been moving furniture in anticipation of my grown children coming home for the holidays. We now have two married daughters and I wanted to convert their teenage girl décor to something more adult for my new sons-in-laws. It’s been quite an arduous task. I’ve moved the same pieces of furniture from wall to wall and room to room several times trying to find the best combination. The process isn’t quite finished, but it will have to do as my attention shifts to other things to prepare.
This concept of trial and error can be very similar as we try to incorporate a new behavior and/or change an existing one. Breaking a habit or making a significant change in how one cares for oneself (eating, exercising, smoking, drinking alcohol, etc.), is a process of trying things out. Just like moving furniture from wall to wall, we may need to try several different ideas to find the one that feels right. If we set the bar at perfection and expect to land on the perfect “arrangement” at the first attempt, we are more likely to quit before we have a chance to figure out how a new behavior might work for us. In fact, when people set absolute goals requiring excellence, they are more likely to trigger a breakdown of self-control the first time they fall short of their expectation.
Your path to change is unique to you. Others may be trying to make similar changes, but how you decide to change is your decision. Just as the next owner of our home will configure the rooms to meet his or her needs, you need to find the plan that works for you and remember that change does not require perfection.