A Coaching Power Tool By Romina Tollerutti, Health and Wellness Coach, UNITED STATES
Progression vs. Perfection: A Health and Wellness Coaching Power Tool
Health, including weight management, has always been a hot topic, especially in recent years with the rising Obesity Epidemic and the COVID Pandemic. Even though most people know that taking care of their health is fundamental for a good living, most fail to do it. In my experience, one of the reasons is how a health journey is faced: an all-of-nothing or perfectionist mindset.
Waiting for the ideal moment to start a plan to get healthier, needing to have everything in order in their life to do it, or once they start, feeling disappointed or defeated with the minimum mistake they made. Does it sound familiar? How many times have you heard people say it? Or even yourself. How often have you heard people who have given up after several attempts?
Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis. Brené Brown
The journey to a healthy self is not a linear and easy path. It is a dynamic and bumpy one. Life is busy and unexpected, so thinking that achieving our health goals will be a simple action plan without finding obstacles, setbacks, or the need for modifications is not realistic. It will make us feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
By understanding from the beginning that we need to focus on Progression, being patient with ourselves and our body, and concentrating on the journey, not the final goal, we are starting our health journey on the right foot. We are setting ourselves up for success.
Perfectionism is an unattainable goal. It’s more about perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy is spent trying. Brené Brown
This power tool helps people move from Perfection to Progression. By assisting them to become aware of a perfectionist mindset and reframing it to a progressive one while engaging them in the coaching process, they will be able to:
- Set small goals or steps and feel motivated when achieving them,
- Not feel discouraged to the point of giving up when facing obstacles,
- Most importantly, be patient and accept yourself. Cultivate self-compassion and self-care. Setbacks will occur, but what clients do about them and what they will become during the journey is as important as achieving the final goal.
Progression vs. Perfection
It’s not striving for excellence. It’s not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. Brené Brown
By helping clients who are stuck on the perfectionism mindset, we are helping them to move forward.
As coaches, we need to help the client become aware that he is striving for Perfection and help them change their mindset into Progression.
By asking the client questions like:
- What goal would you like to achieve? Is this goal achievable?
- What was your experience in the past with working toward this goal? If applicable
- What worked and what did not before? If applicable
We can begin the process of identifying a perspective of Perfection toward achieving a goal.
- What will you feel if you don’t achieve this goal?
- What does failure mean to you?
- What can be in your way of achieving your goal?
- What obstacles do you think can appear in your way? What would you do then?
- What may you feel if you make a mistake, have a bad day, or don’t follow your plan?
We can help our clients become aware of how a perfectionist perspective is an obstacle in their way to achieving their goals.
One of my clients reached out to me to lose weight and improve her overall health. She tried different diets and weight loss plans that worked because she followed the directions strictly but once completed, she regained all the weight a few months later by going back to her previous lifestyle. She is an organized, hard-working, busy mom and professional that have achieved many things in her life. During our 1st session, she mentioned that she didn’t like to see herself in the mirror anymore. She didn’t like her body. When asked where these feelings came from, she mentioned that she was an athlete in her 20s and would love to have her former body again. That image was in her mind constantly when thinking about her current body. The coaching process and the questions above helped her realize that she was aiming for a goal that was not achievable: she was now a different person with a different body. In addition, she felt relief by focusing on accepting her current body and improving her present self. She put much pressure on herself by believing she needed to return to that former (ideal) body. Also, she understood that her previous attempts to lose weight failed due to her inability to realize that, once out of the program or diet, it was ok to have days that were not perfect, leading her to give up once a minimal mistake was made and going back to previous habits. Once again, she was acting with a Perfectionist or an all-or-nothing mindset.
Having reached this point, the coach can help the client change their Perfectionist perspective into one of Progression, which leads to self-acceptance and self-compassion. By giving the client space to reflect on negative feelings that create obstacles, the client has the chance to feel positive ones, which promotes a mindset needed to move forward in the health journey.
In my client’s scenario, the idea of a perfect body (her 20s’ athletic body) and the all-or-nothing mindset were in her way to achieving her goal of losing weight and improving her overall health. By:
- Accepting her current body,
- A new perspective of working toward improving it, and
- With her developing self-compassion and acceptance that mistakes are part of the journey, she was ready to move forward.
Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. Benjamin Franklin
Focusing on Progression, clients who strive to improve their health (no matter their final goal) in a coaching space will develop a deep awareness and understanding of their body and behavior in different situations, positives, and negatives.
Progress changes consciousness, and when people’s consciousness changes, their awareness of what is possible changes as well – a virtuous circle. William J. Clinton
The achievement of small steps toward the final goal keeps the clients’ motivation up. When problems, mistakes, and obstacles arise, they will follow the process learned during coaching sessions: making a pause, becoming aware of it, reflecting, and learning from it. This journey will make them feel empowered and confident that they will be able to manage situations in the future and move forward instead of giving up.
Going back to my client: she was feeling happy and motivated by the end of our work together, thanks to the small victories. One of these small victories was being able to look herself in the mirror with acceptance, which led her to set a new goal of transforming her current body into a stronger and healthier one leaving behind her previous “ideal” image. Also, she was aware that focusing on the progress made her feel empowered to go on. She was ok with moving slowly but firmly toward her goal. She was finally comfortable that obstacles may appear and mistakes may happen, but she was ready to face them and handle them.
Health Coaches can suggest the following tools to support clients’ Progression mindset toward their goals, which will help them in any aspect of their life as well:
- Mindfulness exercises (e.g., Mindful Breathing, Mindful Eating, etc.)
- Surround yourself with supportive people (Community)
A Progression mindset helps clients embrace the long and bumpy journey toward health, with its negative and positive aspects. It allows them to show self-compassion and don’t give up. It helps them learn from it: which is essential to achieving long-lasting lifestyle changes.
Daring Greatly, Book by Brené Brown