Progression, Not Perfection!

"I screwed up!" is a confession I hear when clients stumble towards their goals. Let's say they ate cookies during a Detox cleanse, they ate Fast Food, or they skipped their workouts that week due to lack of time, either way, the client is feeling shame or guilt.

Nothing positive happens from shame or guilt. Our society has a phrase they routinely say, "Shame on you". Shame is defined by the Dictionary as a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong; ability to feel guilt, regret, or embarrassment; dishonor or disgrace. While eating cookies, Fast Food, or skipping workouts will not help us get closer to our goals, they do not constitute dishonoring or disgracing someone. If a client feels shame or guilt, it will derail their train of success.

"Progression, not perfection"

A motto I say routinely. No one is perfect therefore we do not strive for perfection...just progression. If a client is on day 21 of a 28 day Detox and they eat a cookie, or they have not eaten Fast Food in 2 months and they utilize the drive-thru, I ask them, "What did you learn?” Meaning how did you feel after you ate it? (Not a guilt perspective but did you have a sugar crash, bloating, inflammation, moody, etc) The answer is always the same after they have eaten healthy for a few weeks, "I felt sluggish, bloated, didn't sleep well, and my stomach felt uncomfortable". Instead of feeling the empty pit of shame and guilt from eating the cookie or fast food, the client is realizing how their body physically felt from eating a low quality meal. We can all learn from understand how their body responds to various foods. We cannot learn anything from shame or guilt. Shame or guilt will only derail us. When they realize how eating those foods makes them feel, it empowers them to make better choices more consistently. If they decide to indulge on cookies, they will indulge less frequently but will make sure the cookies are worth it (homemade cookies vs. something from the vending machine).

If the client skipped a week of workouts due to a lack of budgeted time and they start back up again, I ask them the same questions. "What did you learn?" (Meaning how did you feel after taking the week off?) "I feel stiff and lacking agility and mobility" is the usual response Instead of shame or guilt, they now realize how missing 1 week disrupted their goals they were trying to achieve. Going forward, they will squeeze a brief HIT (High Intensity Training) workout, which may take only 10-20 minutes. Modified or not, the client is getting a great workout in, instead of missing the entire week. Now the client will feel proud of how they overcame a difficult scenario and thus we have more confidence in our abilities.

What are you to do?

Do not ever feel shame or guilt from not adhering to a plan perfectly. Progression is our goal. If we stumble, what did we learn from that stumble? We will take that information and utilize it going forward, trying to minimize the mistakes we have made in the past. In other words, progression, not perfection.


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified