• Maybe you hit the ground running with your 2023 fitness goals, but are you in danger of running out of steam?

  • Fitness coach Kathleen Trotter wants you to remember: consistency, not perfection, is key

Perfect is a mirage; it doesn’t exist. No human is perfect. No health programme is perfect. Waiting to act until you can be perfect or until you can find the perfect programme just keeps you stuck exactly where you are today.

Even if someone else claims to have found their perfect programme, the benefits of anything are moot if you can’t make yourself do the thing. It doesn’t matter if your favourite celebrity or best friend loves a particular programme — if you can’t make yourself do the regimen, then your body will not reap the rewards. You must create a health routine that works for you. Stop the comparison game. Thrive in your own lane.

To paraphrase Brené Brow, perfectionism is the great oppressor and comparison is the thief of joy. There is no such thing as the perfect anything, and the act of searching for perfection is the enemy of just getting things done.

Act now. Stop putting off till tomorrow what can be done today. Make the best choice possible in this moment. The key is to just start! Drink some water. Go for a walk. Take a meditative breath. Embrace the power of consistent action. You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to get great! So, get going! Think progress over perfection.

How to live the “done is better than perfect” motto:

1. Master the basics 

In our quest to be perfect, too many of us get caught trying to optimise our health margins. Analysis paralysis keeps us stuck; we attempt to balance our macros and debate what supplements we should take instead of just doing the work. We aim for perfect and instead boom and bust between austere and completely off our health horse.

Make your goal to be constantly better. Master the basics. Learn to eat when hungry and stop when full, eat enough fibre, get enough sleep, drink enough water, move daily, and don’t rely on processed foods, etc.

To quote James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, standardise before you optimise.

2. Be realistic! Create an individualised plan

Stop with the unrealistic goals. Stop comparing yourself to others and choosing your next workout plan based on an Instagram post. Stop with the comparison game; it is not a helpful sandbox to enter.

Remember, what you see on social media is not the truth. To paraphrase author Anne Lamott, when you look at other people’s lives you are comparing other people’s done-up, 'makeup-ed' face to your internal critic. Stop thinking your workouts must be two hours long and unbelievably intense to be worthwhile. Stop thinking that only extreme all-or-nothing eating will get you to your goals.

Know you. Create goals based on your body and your life. There is no one perfect way of eating or moving — there is only what works for YOU. Sure, there are principles one should follow, but the key is to tailor the principles to your current life realities, your genetics, your exercise and injury history, and your goals.

3. Work on your self-talk

You can’t create a future, fitter you with the same "self-parenting skills" — i.e., the same internal self-talk — that created your current less-than-fit self.

Inspired by Jerry Colonna's book Reboot I often tell clients that they need to learn how to shoot the crow. The “crow” is Jerry’s word for the internal critic — Brené Brown would say your "gremlins". You pick the word that resonates for you. Work on identifying when your inner demons have come to party so that over time you can create a more helpful, productive dialogue. You need an inner voice that is your own best cheerleader instead of your own worst enemy.

Many experts suggest journaling to identify — and ultimately say goodbye and thank you — to your “crow.” Jerry has a unique play on the journal process. He suggests using two colours of pen. Use one when writing from your centred, emotionally resilient self and one for the thoughts of your crow. By highlighting your crow’s thoughts, you take away their power. It is often easier to see how unproductive the crow’s opinions are when they are on paper vs in your head.

Get to know the internal you — the unconscious values, beliefs, and habits that have and are forming you (you are forming you as you read this; we are always in a constant state of being and becoming). If you want to create a future you that is less driven by the quest for perfection, then you must tweak your internal dialogue — create a different, more productive internal you.

Watch our interview with psychotherapist Julia Bueno on self-criticism:

Let go of the mirage of perfection. Aim to be consistently better. Thrive in your own lane. Figure out what works for you, or you of today! Don’t aim for perfect. Aim for consistency. Trend positive.

Don’t let anyone else — or an outdated operating system based on childhood fears of not being perfect — direct your fate. Create the life, habits, beliefs, and values that allow you to live in your integrity and become the fittest, happiest, and most productive version of you that you can be.

Kathleen Trotter is the author of Finding Your Fit: A Compassionate Trainer’s Guide to Making Fitness a Lifelong Habit 

Further reading

6 psychology-backed tips for successful lifestyle changes

Is dancing the best medicine? How movement stimulates the vagus nerve

The importance of integrating movement into daily life

Why self-compassion is the key to overcoming self-doubt

The downsides of perfectionism