Friday, August 21, 2009

Commitment and Perfection

There are so many schools of thought when it comes to losing weight/healthy eating but all weight-loss bloggers have one thing in common: commitment. Whether or not one agrees with high carb, low carb, high fat, no fat, Weight Watchers, TOPS, calorie counting, etc., everyone agrees that commitment is key.

But what do we mean by commitment? Sadly, I find that for many people--especially women--commitment is synonymous with perfection. "I was perfectly on plan today." "I did exactly the amount and type of exercise I was supposed to do today." "I only ate what I am supposed/allowed to eat." Well, if you had a day where you enjoyed eating healthy foods in reasonable amounts, or did a wonderful round of exercise, I say "great!". But what if you didn't? What if you ate a piece of bread that you "shouldn't" have eaten or spent your day lazing on the couch? Does this make you a bad person? Does this mean that you are incapable of reaching your goals and should therefore give up and go back for that second quarter-pounder with super-sized fries...every day? No! No! And no again!

Commitment means getting up, dusting yourself off and getting on with the business of living a happier, healthier life. As many have said before, how many people would never have learned to walk if they had decided, as small children, that that first fall on the tush meant that walking was far beyond their abilities? You may laugh, but that is what we say to ourselves as adults each and every day. "I am not perfect, therefore I am a failure."

I truly believe we have to disentangle the idea of commitment from the impossible ideal of perfection. Commitment is actually quite banal. Your commitment gets you through the day as best you can and gives you the power to look forward to the next day. Your commitment enables you to realize your potential, because your potential has nothing to do with that extra piece of bread and everything to do with the fact that you are making profound changes to who you are as a whole.

When you learn a new language or a new skill like playing the piano, you don't expect your grammar or your fingering to be spotless every minute of the day. There are days when you go back to speaking the language like a total newb and days when you realize you could study for your B.A. in that language. The bottom line is that you speak it a lot better today than you did last year. And no doubt, if you keep working at it, your mastery will be even better next year. Maybe, eventually, you, the amateur pianist, will play a Beethoven sonata (although alas, my commitment to the piano has never been that strong!).

Perfect is momentary at most. Perfection is usually impossible. Perfection does exist...on paper and thanks to PhotoShop.

Commitment is long-term and REAL. Commitment is something that we work at every day. Commitment is something that is fed by both triumph and failure. Commitment is measured over weeks, months and years, not moments.

So let's commit to commitment, not perfection, and live every day with love and respect for ourselves.


  1. After flirting with perfection, I decided that it was healthier for mind, spirit and body to just try and do better.

    It's easy to fall short when you're trying to be perfect, but it's hard to not be happy when you're committed to doing better.

  2. This is just such a wonderful way to put it. The great thing about commitment too is that it can be renewed everyday!

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. Good post. You are right to disentangel committment from perfection. Progress, not perfection, is the code I live by. As Mark Sisson (Mark's Daily Apple) says, "don't let the perfect get in the way of the good."

  4. Very good post a lot of thinking for me...Thank you!!!

  5. Great post. I am bouncing (literally!) between perfection and total disaster in my eating and exercise efforts. This is something I know I have to address. So thank you for your ideas!

    Best wishes,
    Bearfriend xx

  6. This was just a fantastic post and exactly what I needed to hear. You were speaking directly to me, and I got the message! Perfection is absolutely what I've been striving for, and I've disappointed myself over and over. You are so right. It should be the commitment I'm committing to...not perfection. Perfection IS impossible and it will wear a person out trying to imitate it. Thank you so much for this. Truly, thank you.