Health Change: Progress, Not Perfection – Part 4 of 4

September 27, 2022

By: Dr. Mary Rose Strickland
Physical Therapist | Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner

You have followed our first 3 parts of this change mini-series and have finally reached the end!  In the last article of this series, we are going to discuss how there isn’t actually an “end” in this process; after all they are intended to be lifestyle modifications.  This process is about a journey and overall making progress, not being perfect.

If you did set an original goal that was specific to a situation (example: to decrease my blood pressure to an average through physical activity and diet, or lose x number of pounds), the next step is to consider what maintenance of that goal looks like.  Simply stopping all leading behaviors that lead you to achieve that goal more than likely is going to eventually return you back to where you first started.  It takes 30 days of doing something consistent to make it a habit.  It takes 6 months of doing a behavior consistently and hitting change goals to reach maintenance.

Maintenance is where we become aware of strategies to manage any stressful or threatening situations that may set us back and continue to have reinforcement of health behaviors that led to our success.

A key point in our journey and maintenance plan is that we are striving to change for the better, not to be perfect.  Nobody is perfect.  And thinking that you are achieving that can be discouraging and lead you to give up all together.  Maybe you had a bad day.  Tomorrow starts a fresh day.  Review your why, your goals, and recommit the next day.  Focus on what you can and will do vs. what happened the day prior.

Make plans for situations that you know will challenge you.  For example, if vacation is a trigger for overeating and indulging in more alcoholic beverages than usual, plan ahead of time for what and how you’d like to see your vacation go.  Realize it is vacation and you may not engage in every single lead health behavior each and every day…and that is OK.  However, when you return home, don’t let your vacation follow you home.  That can create a slippery slope.  Instead, as soon as you walk through the door, tell yourself you are back on track and following your leading health behaviors.

Overtime you’ll see and feel the benefits of your changes and situations such as vacations, social gatherings – parties, BBQs, etc, will become easier to navigate because you’ll grow accustomed to how you feel when engaging in healthy behaviors.  Lifestyle changes don’t have an end date, they continue throughout life if we desire and prioritize a healthy life.

Health Change: Practical Application Tips:

  • Step 1: Write down why you want to change.  Post it in a spot you can see each day.
  • Step 2: Write a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, and time bound.  Share your goal and intentions with a loved one.  Also post it in a spot that you can see.
  • Step 3: Identify leading behaviors that will ultimately get you closer to your goal.  Ones that you can wake up each and every day and choose to engage and do, regardless of the progress (or lack thereof) to your main goal.  Write these down in addition to your goal and find a simple way to track and reflect daily.
  • Step 4: Realize this journey is all about progress we make, and not being perfect.

Dr. Mary Rose Strickland is a physical therapist and certified Lifestyle Medicine provider. She is currently accepting lifestyle medicine clients where she can help identify areas of health change, work with you to set up a plan for success, and guide you through necessary change to achieve your health goals. Reach out to her at or call 608.742.9356 to get more information or schedule an initial lifestyle medicine consultation.