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“Some quit due to slow progress, never grasping the fact that slow progress…is progress.”

The biggest changes in life start with the smallest steps.

If you didn’t get where you are overnight, you won’t get where you’re going overnight either.

It’s true that making a change – like switching to a whole food, plant-based diet – takes commitment and dedication, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Keep these three ideas in mind to make your transition easier and, in the long run, successful.

Remember this is a journey, not a destination.

Maybe you want to adopt a plant-based diet to lose weight or improve your health and you have a lot of ideas about how fast it “should” happen. Instead of obsessing about the end goal, why not instead simply focus on your daily actions. The little steps. The fun things you will learn like cooking new dishes or eating new foods. Imagine this plant-based journey as an adventure. Let your plant-based journey be fun. Let it be easy by letting go of what you think success looks like.

No journey is without its challenges. You’ll have difficult moments. You might get stuck. Stuck in old habits. Stuck for something new to eat. Remember that some of life’s biggest breakthroughs are actually born out of being stuck! And the best way to get “unstuck” is by taking baby steps.

Every journey is personal. You’ll find your own way through the process of changing to a whole food, plant-based life. Don’t assume someone else’s formula will work for you—it might not.

In the end, make sure to enjoy the journey. Stop and smell the roses along the way. Let it teach you and connect you to yourself and your true values.

Remember it’s not about perfection; it’s about progress.

Nobody is perfect and it’s easy to get stuck in the past. Maybe you strayed from your diet because you were busy, hungry, tired or out of ideas. It happens. But don’t live in yesterday’s recrimination and regret. It takes a lot of energy to hold onto the past – energy you could be investing in today.

When making goals, there are two types that you can choose from: “be good” and “getting better.” The first type of goal is totally performance oriented; a person has an ideal (or idealized) concept of “good” toward which they strive. Unless the person achieves the ideal, they have failed. But “getting better” goals are process-oriented goals in which the journey and the destination are undivided. A person strives to improve rather than meet some arbitrary ideal of good or perfection.

Research shows that the “getting better” mindset is more effective for long-term success. Plus, those who work with “getting better” goals are able to take pleasure in small improvements they make along their journey, which leads to greater happiness. By contrast, the “be good” goal set is only satisfied with perfection. Unless some arbitrary standard is achieved, the “be good” mindset is never happy and is constantly frustrated by setbacks which are inevitable on any journey.

In life, progress is more important than perfection. Don’t hang onto yesterday. Embrace—and celebrate- each day as you make progress on your personal journey.

Remember your “why” that makes you cry.

Take time every single day to connect with the reasons you want to transition on an emotional level. A compelling “why” is essential to creating the leverage you need to make lasting change.

Your leverage is the why that makes you cry.

Tony Robbins describes leverage this way, “Leverage is uncovering what’s most important to a person (you) to help them make the commitment to making a change. To ensure that change is lasting, the commitment has to be overwhelming. It has to overcome the forces of inertia that hold our old behaviors and beliefs in place.”

The two main forces that motivate us are avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. To gain leverage, combine the two motivating factors. Think about the pain of not changing right now and the pleasure of changing immediately. The pain gives you short-term motivation while the pleasure serves your long-term goals.

The important thing to note is that pleasure and pain are immediate feelings. People who make lasting lifestyle changes have reasons that give them immediate pleasure and help them avoid immediate pain. You might have long-term goals for adopting a new lifestyle such as staying healthy or losing weight, but those take time. Think about your immediate goals because they will fuel the emotion—and the will—to choose the new over the old way—TODAY.

The 5 Whys

To help you have a deep emotional connection to your plant-based lifestyle goals, why not try the 5 Whys exercise?

The idea behind this exercise is simple.

The 5 Whys exercise starts with a statement and digs deeper with 5 Whys until you find your real emotional reason that will allow you to succeed. Once you discover that deeper, more emotional “why”, you will have a real emotional connection (and ironclad motivation!) to move forward towards your goals.

Once you reach why #5, the reason to change becomes a must. It’s not an “I should” anymore. The fifth “why” connects you to your most emotional reason for making the change.

And that reason will give you immediate pleasure every time you make the choice you want to and must make.

So, remember, that your transition to a plant-based lifestyle is a journey. It isn’t about the destination or about being ‘perfect’. It’s about making progress even if it’s measured in baby steps and finding the emotional leverage you need to help you make the right choices every day.

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.