You Have Permission To Be A Work In Progress

Are you a work in progress? If you're looking for self-development tips, self-help advice, or productivity tips, read this first. #selfhelp #selfdevelopment #inspiration

Here are some things that I’ve tried and failed:

1. Eating less dairy
2. Going completely screen-free after 6 pm
3. Not checking my email till noon
4. Eating every meal at my dining room table, with a place mat and napkin – never, ever in front of my laptop, scanning Facebook as I eat popcorn with a spoon
…. and about a million other things.
I’ve read articles and studies that support these lifestyle changes and whenever I do these things I feel amazing. I feel like a brighter, shinier, more centered version of myself.
Which you’d think would be enough, right?
But inevitably, something will happen – I’ll travel and fall out of my routine, I’ll have a week of early meetings that require 7 am email checking – and allofasudden I’ve fallen back into my cheese-scarfing, screen-staring, Twitter-refreshing rut.
This will trigger a lot of internal eye rolling and some mild self-flagellation. I’ll huff around my apartment muttering “Get it together, Von Bargen!” More than once I’ve referenced my own blog post How To Restart A Bad/Annoying/Unproductive Day and I regularly wonder “Is it easier for everyone else? Am I fated to spend the rest of my life falling off the wagon and clawing my way back on?”
I brought this question to my friends Katie and Jina and, oracle-like, they gave me this piece of tattoo-worthy wisdom:
Don’t you want to write that inside your eyelids? Or at the very least frame and hang it next to your bathroom mirror?
None of us will be perfect 100% of the time – and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be. It’s not kind, realistic, sustainable, or particularly interesting. But it’s called a work in progress, not a make-a-list-you-then-ignore in progress or a give-up-after-one-try in progress.
What does that work look like?
For me, that work looks like following more vegan food blogs and trying some of the dairy substitutes at my co-op. It looks like using Cold Turkey to block myself from email and social media till noon or taking my laptop somewhere that doesn’t have wi-fi. It looks like actually turning off my laptop at 6 pm and closing the door to my office.
Will these measures make me a flawless human who never eats a whole wedge of Parmesan in one sitting or falls down a Broad City hole?
No. And frankly, I’m not interested in perfection and I’m certainly not interested in a life that doesn’t include cheese curds or the occasional Hulu marathon.
But I’m ready for a bit more progress in my work in progress.
Do you struggle to stick with habits you know are good for you? How do you stay on track? Do you have a mantra that helps? Tell me all about it in the comments!
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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  1. Manisha

    Just this morning as I was making my bed I realized that making my bed had become a habit, a very good habit. I took a few minutes to contemplate when that happened and I couldn't remember but I did remember years ago when this wasn't a regular thing. So I settled on the idea that it took me years to get this habit but that doesn't matter because now I have it. Your post makes me think of my friend who chose sobriety and she says that everyday is an opportunity to correct the behavior and try again. I think I will print out that quote and paste it into my journal. Thanks, Sarah!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I'm a bedmaker, too! So glad you found this useful 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! I love budgetbytes! This suggestion comes at an appropriate time – I ate half a bag of cheese curds today and gave myself a stomachache :/

  2. Kyerin

    Thanks Sarah, I needed a reminder to get back on the horse today!

    If you happen to find yourself eating popcorn at your screen again, though, can I recommend chopsticks? Changed my life 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Really? Interesting – I'll have to try that!

  3. The Dame Intl

    Today was meant to be Day 2 of a week without refined sugar and I only remembered while eating a soft serve ice cream + flake…
    Thanks for this excellent quote, think I'll make a print out of it and add it to the pinboard above my office desk.

  4. cheryl

    thank you for this reminder. thank you many times over.

  5. Cinestylography

    I think also it is important to remember that you don't have to succeed at all of this stuff. Sometimes, it is a case of saying 'I tried something new, and it didn't work for me. But I learned I like my old, own ways of doing things, which is still a win.'

    I tried to eat at the dinner table every night. And I would go through whole periods where I succeeded. But did it add to my enjoyment of dinner, or make me a better or happier person in any way? It did not. I was just trying to eat at the table because I thought it was more grown-up. It made me much happier to switch back to eating on the sofa in front of the TV without any guilt. My sofa dinners are totally one of the highlights of my day 🙂

  6. Sara Frandina

    Ohhh I needed this today! I'm not out to be perfect (there will ALWAYS be room in my life for popcorn + wine at 3pm), but it's tough to remember that as I'm trying and "failing." (Here's lookin' at you, meditation.)

    So… I will NOT kick myself for my newsletter not going out tomorrow or the fact that it's 9:28pm and I'm still on the computer. But I WILL put in the work to be more consistent in reaching out to my community + spending nights unplugged.

    Thank you again for this!

  7. The Bun

    Admittedly I am what's technically referred to as "seriously effed up", but where you hear "it's ok to not be perfect" in "I am a work in progress", I hear "I will never be good enough, no matter how much work I put in". I suppose that isn't helpful to y'all healthy-minded people, but I wanted to put it out there in case anyone else who reads your newsletter (as I greatly enjoy doing) feels the same, so they'll know they aren't alone.

    Ok, now that I've completely spoiled the mood, carry on! 😀

  8. Shannon Lutz

    Such a great post.. too fun and too true! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I have such a perfectionist side to me that I hate when the Twitter-Refreshing, snack-food-gorging phases come, but like you said.. works in progress 🙂

  9. babycrowyoga

    I love this. Yes, the secret is in the balance between compassion and doing the work — not necessarily perfectly or all the time, but doing it anyway! Thank you for sharing. This really spoke to me.

  10. Kate

    I loved this! I think there's so much pressure on us all to achieve 'perfection' but the goalposts are always changing. There's also this expectation that we can change overnight when really I think change is often taking a babystep in the direction you want to go in as often as you can. And also listening to that inner voice that tells you what you want & think you should be working towards, rather than what anybody else thinks. And when you do something that you're not happy with yourself about, having a bit of compassion & recognising we're human and we mess up. As my gran always says, tomorrow is a new day!

    Anyway, that was a pretty long winded way of saying thank you! This post was just what I needed to read & oh, so, so right!

  11. Erika

    Brilliant! I've found that the most detrimental thing to trying to change is beating myself up when I fail.

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