The goal is progress, not perfection

The goal is progress, not perfection

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” — Ronald Reagan

Practice makes perfect. How often have you heard those words from someone trying to encourage you to get better at something?

Those are good words of wisdom to live by, generally speaking. But in recovery, you need to take a completely new approach. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being humble, tenacious — and consistent.

The goal you’re after is progress, which means practicing good habits and taking the right steps every day, however little.

Lets break down those three traits — humility, tenacity and consistency — and see how you can apply them in your recovery journey.


Being humble is first and foremost about accepting your own limitations and weaknesses. This is especially important when you’re just starting out your new life after treatment, because you’ll need to accept a lot more limitations at this stage.

Keep the big picture in mind: a new dream job, your own private apartment, new friends. But know that none of this will happen overnight.

You may need to accept a lower-paying job or something less than ideal as you’re getting back into the labor force or changing careers. You may need some time to save money for renting the perfect apartment.

It will take time to make new friends, too— but they may be easier to find than you think. If you come to one of Olalla’s monthly meetings, you’ll be surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through and who share similar experiences. Start there to build your new network.

Practicing humility means understanding what you can do now, and what you need to work up to. It means accepting feedback and being grateful for what you have today. Living in the moment.


You’ve heard me say this often — this journey is long, and never easy. You’ll need determination to reach your goals. Because no matter how much support you have, no matter how much encouragement from others you receive, ultimately progress is up to you.

Your support system is here to cheer you on, maybe even nudge you along. But you have to do the work. There’s just no way around it.

At times, you may feel yourself faltering and losing your determination. Don’t panic! This is where your friends, family and professionals can help you. Talk to your counselor. Share your challenges at the next support group meeting or monthly Olalla Recovery birthday meeting. Ask family members to help you with a system that keeps you accountable.


We’ve talked earlier about taking small steps toward the big goals. The key to this idea is that you have to be consistent. Work every day on something, whether it’s a new goal or a goal you’ve been making progress toward.

Just make sure you know what your big goals are and what are the small steps — small goals — that will lead toward the big goals.

Sometimes, it helps to be visual about it. For example, you can use a large wall calendar to pencil in milestones, and then check them off as you achieve them. One look at the calendar, and you’ll feel good about seeing all those check marks!

Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve missed your timeline for a milestone or small goal. As I said earlier, it’s all about progress. Don’t worry, you’ll get there! Stay strong.