The journey doesn’t end when we reach the top.

There were 4 days last month that I didn’t hit 10,000 steps. That is worse than the 10% “fail rate” that I was hoping for, but not terrible for the first go. Even on those days I knew I probably wasn’t going to make it, I still walked more steps than I normally would have. Implementing the philosophy of my friend Erika at Better over Perfect, I opted to strive to get as many steps as I could, moving the needle forward instead of just taking my tracker off and saying, “Well fine then. I’m not going to hit it anyway, so I may as well not even try.”

This challenge has actually been a significant mind shift for me. When I know I will probably eat the fries off my husband’s plate at dinner and therefore won’t stay low-carb, I say, “I may as well eat the chicken strips at lunch. And I may as well eat the bun on the burger.” Instead of accepting that I may slip but stay focused until then, I say, “since I can’t do it perfectly, I’ll just start tomorrow.” That turns into, “since I’ll probably want cake at my birthday next month, I may as well wait until then, (eating as much as possible until then since I’ll “never have it again” after I (re)start my diet).

This mentality of perfection keeps us stuck in a perpetual pattern of taking one step forward and two steps back. Instead of taking small, baby steps in the right direction, we try to jump as far as we can but inevitably end up moving backward, often past where we started. Am I the only one who has gained more weight after a diet than the amount I lost on the diet?

This is why I love the research I talked about in this month’s challenge intro post where I talked about the benefits of seeing a goal as a journey rather than a destination. I did not just complete a challenge of 10,000 steps a day. The goal was not simply to check the box every day. The goal was to move a little farther down the path of becoming more active and improving my overall well-being.

It is through striving for this goal that I am actually achieving it and becoming a stronger, healthier person. The achievement of the goal itself does not do that. It is the act of becoming someone new through the process.

On the very last day, Halloween, I was at 4,832 steps at 8:40 PM. I had to be up at 3:00 in the morning to catch a flight. With the Houston Astros in the World Series that week, I was significantly behind on my sleep, and thus the great debate began. I took as many steps as I could before opting to take the ‘x’ in exchange for an extra hour or so of sleep. I didn’t even look before taking off my band. See, it wasn’t about measuring how close I had gotten or how short I was. It was about doing the very best I could and resting in the knowledge that I still walked more than I had last month, and tomorrow I would do a little better than I did today. It’s about getting better and taking a step forward every day, regardless of how small that step may feel. It’s about retraining my body to remember what moving forward even feels like. It’s not about the steps; it’s about keeping self promises and moving forward.

In what areas will you focus on being better over perfect today? How will you implement this mindset that encourages you to take one step forward? I encourage you to literally speak that phrase out loud (or in the safety of your own head) when you feel the tug of disappointment or the whisper of defeat. Remember that it isn’t about reaching this magical destination called perfection. Life is a journey. Parenting is a journey. Health is a journey. It’s a game with no end. In all you do, strive to be better over perfect and start enjoying the journey you are on.

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