Progression Not Perfection

The other week I was listening to Tom Brady being interviewed on the “How Leaders Lead” podcast with David Novak. In this podcast, Tom detailed his lifestyle back in his college days. Back then hamburgers and hot dogs were the usual go-to meals for lunch and dinner. Sleep was never really a priority. And his only focus with fitness was based solely on lifting heavy weights without any regard to recovery. This was surprising to hear as Tom Brady is known for how meticulous he is with optimizing his fitness, nutrition, sleep, and overall health. Tom now has his own line of sleepwear for optimal sleep quality, his own food prep service for optimal nutrition, and his own fitness and recovery regimen for optimal physical performance. Tom embodies the pinnacle of athletic health and wellness and to know his college lifestyle was so similar to everyone else’s is shocking.

But to be honest, it’s a story that I can relate to. So often now, my friends and family are surprised by how disciplined I am with my meal prepping/planning, nightly sleep schedule, daily runs, and regular workouts. My mom’s often quoted as saying, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never do that.” But I haven’t always been this focused or disciplined with my health and wellness. In fact, my lifestyle in middle school and most of high school was not healthy at all. My daily lunches included Kool-Aid packs, cookies, chips, and candy galore. My fitness routine may have been strong for a week or two but always relapsed to nothing for months. And I don’t recall ever thinking about sleep unless my parents told me that I should be in bed by now. It’s so crazy how I use to live compared to how I live now. And although I don’t have six super bowl rings or compare to the level of Tom Brady’s success, I can see so many similarities between Tom’s story and mine.

And it all started with the idea of progression, not perfection.

Why Progress and Not Perfect

Back in High School health class, we had a competition for who could lose the most fat and gain the most muscle over the school year. It was the knowledge in this class that sparked my interest in health and the competition that set my desire in motion. Ever since then, I’ve continually tried to improve or progress my healthy lifestyle. And it never started out with me aiming for perfection, but just progression. Back then when I was drinking Kool-Aids and Capri Suns, I just wanted to swap out my drink for something healthier like an orange juice. And instead of eating a lunchable, how about a peanut butter sandwich. And instead of a brownie, how about some cheese puffs. And that year I just started making small incremental improvements to my lifestyle. Progression. And those slight changes made consistently over time led me to win second place in our health class competition.

My Lunch Evolution Since Middle School

But the person who won the competition was shooting for perfection. They employed a strict diet and hardcore workouts. And although they beat me that year, they lost their motivation after the class had ended and hadn’t found a way to make their habits sustainable. Now years later, they’ve never found a way to regain that momentum while I’ve stuck to a steady progression. In college I swapped out my peanut butter sandwich for a veggie sandwich. My cheese puffs became a fruit mix. And my orange juice turned into a vitamin water. And each time I made changes like these, I knew I was making small sustainable changes that were leading to progress but were by no means perfect.

And now, where I am today, I’m eating a veggie loaded salad, a bean filled chili bowl, fruit, and nuts for lunch every day. It’s a meal that’s so healthy, many believe that they could never eat what I eat every day. But I didn’t make this change overnight! I didn’t make it in a week or a month. It’s this mindset and discipline of continually trying to improve everyday that’s been so effective. I’m not competing or comparing myself with anyone else; I’m just trying to be a better version of myself today compared to yesterday. It’s progression, not perfection that’s worked so well.

The “I Could Never Do That” Mentality

If I look at how my fitness routines have evolved over the years, that’s progression as well. Ten years ago, I was just starting to workout consistently with resistance/weight training. After about five years, I started to read about the benefits of recovery work like stretching, mobility, and flexibility and decided to add that into my routine as well. A couple of years ago I started to get into running too and now I perform almost daily corrective work for muscle imbalances and posture correction. It’s been all about establishing one habit, and then once that habit is sustainable, progressing and adding another one into the routine.

But 10 years ago, before I had this knowledge and habit infrastructure in place, I too would’ve looked at everything I’m doing today and said, “I could never do that.” But the thing is, everyone can. And it starts with one small step today, repeated with consistency over an extended period of time. And then once you master it, you add another component to the mix. Because trying to do everything at once or the perfect routine is almost always too much. You may be able to pull it off for a week, or a month, or until a competition completes but it won’t be a habit that lasts forever.

Final Thoughts

As you start or continue your journey to pinnacle health and wellness, try not to focus on what the perfect meal plan, or fitness routine, or sleep schedule is. Instead, start by implementing one healthy habit. Get that habit to a spot where you know its enjoyable, sustainable, and effective. Then once that’s complete, look to add another habit to the mix. It’s these small improvements made consistently over time that produce astounding results.

Looking for a healthy habit to start implementing now? Try a free recipe or mobility flow to get started!


Hey, I am Brandon Zerbe

Welcome to myHealthSciences! My goal has always been to increase quality-of-life with healthy habits that are sustainable, efficient, and effective. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognition, Finance and Minimalism. You can read more about me here.


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