Progress Not Perfection in Recovery
Realistic Goals in Recovery
When people in recovery talk about progress not perfection it does not mean that people should not be trying to be the best they can be. The point is that perfection is too high a goal and that people should aim for something slightly less ambitious. If the individual make an honest attempt at overcoming their character flaws they will be moving closer to perfection, but it is not likely that they will ever fully complete this journey. Humans are fallible, and the only important thing is that they try their best. By setting the more realistic goal of progress rather than perfection the individual is far more likely to achieve their aim.
Dangers of Expecting Perfection in Recovery
If people expect perfection from themselves or other people it can lead to problems such as:
* Humans are fallible so to expect perfection is unrealistic. Those who do demand that things are always going to be perfect will spend a great deal of time disappointed.
* Demanding perfection gets in the way of progress.
* Those individuals who have such high expectations may be setting themselves up for a relapse. They will use this lack of perfection in recovery as justification for a return to alcohol or drugs.
* Expecting other people to be perfect is an unfair demand. Even the most saintly individual is likely to have their occasional lapses.
* The goal of becoming perfect is just too overwhelming and so most people will just give up on it. If the aim is progress then they will be able to stay motivated because they see the results.
* Those who expect perfection are easily put off by the any failures. They can use these failures as an excuse to give up.
* Perfectionists tend to be too rigid and serious to enjoy sobriety. There is no need for people to be perfect in order to get the most from life.
* The all or nothing approach of the perfectionist is similar to the mindset of an active addict.
Failure in Recovery
Anyone who enters the path of recovery will have to face failure at least now and again. This is just a part of life that humans cannot completely avoid. The successful people in life did not get where they are because they never failed – the reality is that they usually failed many times in their journey but they learned from it. The only real failures in life are those people who give up trying.
Those people who are afraid to fail are unlikely to ever find much success in life. Their desire for perfection actually gets in the way of making progress. The benefits of facing failure in life include:
* When people fail it can give their motivation a boost. They want to do better next time and this encourages them to work harder.
* It forces people to think outside the box and try new approaches. Most of the great innovations in the world have occurred as a result of failures.
* Life is about a journey and not about accomplishing goals. Even failures can take people in interesting directions and allow them to experience different things.
* Knowing what does not work can be almost as important as finding out what does work. It means that the individual can avoid these wrong paths in the future.
* Failure can be viewed as a test. Those who really want to achieve something will persist through failure while does who do not will give up.
* People tend to learn and grow more from their failures than their successes. This is because pain is sometimes more motivational than reward.
Benefit of Focusing on Progress not Perfection
There are some definite benefits to be had by focusing on progress rather than perfection such as:
* Aiming for perfection is an impossible task that will leave people frustrated and disappointed. Progress is always going to be achievable no matter where people are starting from.
* As people observe that they are making progress it increases their motivation to proceed. They may not ever reach perfection but this motivation can push them towards significant personal development.
* People in recovery have a tendency to push themselves too hard. By focusing more on progress they will be able to lighten up and excuse their occasional failings.
* It means that the individual will have more realistic expectations for other people. The will understand that humans are fallible, and that all people can really do is try their best.
* These people will be willing to face failure and learn from it.
* When people only expect progress in their life they don’t have to wait to enjoy what they have. They get to appreciate what they have at this moment rather than waiting for some perfect day that will never come.
The Dangers of Becoming Stuck in Recovery
Progress is not only beneficial for people in recovery, but it can also be crucial. Those who become stuck and fail to make any progress are in real danger because:
* When people are stuck in recovery their life will feel unsatisfactory. They may become disillusioned and decide to return to alcohol or drug abuse.
* It is often said that recovery is a process and not an event. If people only give up alcohol and drugs, but fail to progress any further they are unlikely to find much satisfaction in their new life.
* When people become stuck in recovery they can become highly stressed. They may decide to ease this stress by turning to new maladaptive behaviors.
* Those people who do not actively try to improve their life are unlikely to know much happiness. The good things don’t just come to people – they have to work for them.
* Those individuals who become stuck in recovery can easily develop dry drunk syndrome This means that they are no longer drinking but their behavior is much the same as it always was.
* When people become stuck they begin to view life in recovery as being similar to serving out a prison sentence. This is not a satisfactory way to approach life.
How to Progress in Recovery
Making progress in recovery does require a bit of effort, but the rewards make it worth it. People can insure their progress by:
* In order to progress in recovery the individual needs to understand the need for it. Those who don’t feel like they need to progress are unlikely to put much effort into doing so.
* The individual needs to make a commitment to progress in recovery.
* It is vital that people have realistic expectations. Change does not occur over night, and it can sometimes feel to people as if they are going backwards.
* Keeping a recovery journal is a good option so that people can view their progress over time. It can be highly satisfying for people to read back on old entries in their journal to see how far they’ve come.
* It is important that people learn how to cope with failures because these are sure to come. If the individual can learn from the experience there will be no real failures.
* Those who follow a spiritual path usually find that this encourages them to develop as humans.
* Recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can also offer a program that encourages people to progress.
* Recovery is to be enjoyed and not endured. It is not a good idea for people to push themselves too hard aiming for the impossible.
* The individual needs to be aware that there will be times when it doesn’t feel like they are making much progress. Sometimes it can even feel like people are going backwards, but this is usually followed by a great deal of progress.
* People progress in recovery by facing the challenges that come their way. It is best to view these challenges as a chance to grow rather than just something in the way.
* The best attitude to keep in recovery is a beginner’s mind. The individual should always be open to having their current beliefs and opinions challenged.
* It is highly recommended that people develop the ability to think critically. This will reduce the risk of being held back by their current beliefs and biases.