Sometimes it’s not as important to put your best foot forward as it is to put a foot forward. Take the next step and let it be what it is, even if you wish it were better. Often when we’ve made a new commitment or we’re trying to develop a new positive habit we unwittingly sabotage ourselves by setting the bar at perfection. If I’m going to work out, I have to get to the gym three days a week; if I’m going to say I’m a writer, I have to write every day; if I’m trying to learn a new computer program, I should be able to produce the desired output. In each of the scenarios, either I or someone I know, has opted (for varying lengths of time) to do nothing at all since we judged that we wouldn’t be able to do it “right.”
We’re not perfect, so why do we buy into these internal expectations that things will go as we think they should? We are human, and who we are at a fundamental level doesn’t change because we missed a day at the gym or a day of writing. We remain the unique individuals God created us to be even when we or others judge us to have failed at some endeavor. We retain our worth as human beings and our fundamental identities as God’s children whether we live up to our own expectations or not.
Here’s a secret. God knows who he created us to be. He knows we are human and he knows that we fail — over and over again. If God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, why do we expect it of ourselves? Going to the gym twice or even once a week is still vastly better than not going at all; writing a day after a self-imposed deadline still accomplishes more than skipping it completely; and playing around with a new program to see what it does moves us closer to producing something than distracting ourselves with online videos.
So let’s try this: when we set a new goal or rule for ourselves, let’s also mentally prepare for the day when we miss the mark. We are not planning to fail; conversely, we are setting realistic expectations so that when we inevitably stumble we won’t experience it as failure. When we think we’ve failed, it’s easy to quit altogether and to think that all effort in the endeavor (both past and future) was/will be wasted effort. But when we encounter the same difficulty as something we expected, then we can look at it for what it is — a mere bump in the road — and take the next step forward. We can acknowledge that we are human and start again from right here.