Stopping the Madness of Perfectionism: part 4 Incremental Increase

  1. Stopping The

The Pendulum Lifestyle

Have you ever created crazy standards for yourself  on how you should be and what the process of change to be that way, should look like? I know I have. I  tortured myself trying to do right by all these “shoulds” for many years.

These roller coaster highs and lows would plummet me into depression and self loathing, further locking me into the very same habits I was trying to change.


Brief Recap

In the previous posts of this series I explained how living with perfectionism was like living on a pendulum that would swing from one extreme to the other.

I shared what I have stumbled upon as the nuts and bolts of how I avoided it’s mental traps and made progress in making “new habits” a permanent part of my lifestyle. The nuts and bolts being, taking very tiny steps sure footedly and framing the process not as a race to the finish line but a network or Safety Net, of actions that gradually transformed my life.


The Last Principle

In this post I will share the last helpful principle I call the principle of Incremental Increase. It is basically the act of increasing very incrementally in breadth and depth the habits already established.


So Incremental You Don’t Feel It

For some things this principle doesn’t apply as with my habit of drinking 1.5 liters of water in one sitting, drinking more than that borders on harmful. For everything else, once I was able to do a new habit without fail for say 2 weeks then I increased it. For some of the things listed below it took many months to get to the place where I was able to do it every day for 2 weeks without a gap. Right before reaching the 14 day mark, many times I’d slip and have to adjust my tiny step towards a new habit into an even tinier step until it was doable.

Self Care Act 2 weeks w/no gap 2 weeks w/no gap 2 weeks w/no gap
Writing 5 minutes 10 minutes 15 minutes
Meditating I minute 3 minutes 6 minutes
Exercise* walking 1 hour Aerobics for 10 minutes Cross Training for 15 minutes
*Increasing exercise incrementally in the past year has meant that instead of increasing time(which wouldn’t work for me), I increased the intensity by adding squats, hand weights and 3 minutes total of pushups and planks.


Proven Principles

James Clear, my all time favorite writer on habits has a great post on this very topic he calls “Habit creep”. When I read what he had to say I was floored that what I discovered true for me in changing habits, was true for others. This is why I decided to call them principles.


Nothin New Under The Sun

All of the principles I have shared are nothing new. In the past year I have found much information online now, on the science of behavioral change. I’ve mentioned to you some of my favorite sources in the previous posts like Kelly McGonial, S.J. Scott from Develop Good Habits,research from Jonathan Levav of Stanford in this article. It lights me up to see how much of what I experienced to be true for me, is now being proven scientifically.  It’s been hard won knowledge that’s for sure! You don’t have to go through that trial and error to the extent that I did if you start applying the principles now.

Power Routine From 30 min.’s to 3 Hours in 15 Years

What began as my trying to wake up 30 minutes earlier to drink 1.5 liters of water, has led to my current morning power routine of 3 hours. It’s 3 hours to myself before I essentially get started on what other people need me to do. For some that might be a lot but I wouldn’t be here writing to you if I didn’t give myself that time. It’s those morning hours that led me to gather the gusto and clarity to start this blog. I honed my writing skills daily for about a year before I published my first post. Today part of that 3 hour time is spent making these posts.


Solid Sense of Well Being

Today my days are full of activities that I love. As a hands on mom committed to whole food meals, ardent community volunteer, gardener and blogger I live a full life.  These principles have been immensely helpful in creating habits that have grown my core energy and focus over the years.  My life today is a far cry from the girl that struggled with depression (I’ll share more about this in a later post)and gathered all her energy to just take a shower in the morning. A day has yet to come in 12 years when I do nothing in my self care routine. Something always gets done and the result has been a solidly growing sense of well being at the foundation of my life today.


What Can it Look Like For You?

You can make a tiny step towards a new habit and increase it very incrementally, for example start walking 15 minutes, increase to 20 until you have 30, do that for a month and then challenge yourself to start jogging in 1 minute increments, then increase to 2, then 3 etc.


If you create a small increase in something and you notice that you can’t maintain it for a few weeks, that’s feedback that the increase needs to be even smaller. Acknowledge where you are at and make the necessary changes. Remember sure and steady trumps fast and hard in the process of creating new habits.



I do an ongoing dance with  perfectionism as it is an epidemic in our culture that we’re always  bombarded with, especially as women. I see it now though as a dance of interacting with it to let it go.

Say for example a girlfriend in a conversation brings up all her berating “shoulds”. I sit with how ugly it feels and then consciously put effort to fill myself with good feeling by doing some self care even if just with my thoughts. I can then pivot the conversation by focusing on all her “coulds” and loving possibilities. With the friends that I have chosen we can usually get the ball rolling pretty fast.

Surf Life With Empowering Habits

There is no perfect anything in life except babies. Life is messy and here! I know for me creating more life giving habits has made all the difference in my ability to surf it. Hopefully something I shared is of use to you. If so don’t be shy and say hello. Until next time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s