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About setbacks and the inner drive

New habit setbacks are frequently experienced when perfection is the goal...

We overestimated ourselves and around the Christmas craze when it came to reducing waste and consumption, experienced a huge setback or maybe even a mental roadblock. Think about what you get for presents, don’t use traditional giftwraps, cook for 20 people and leave no waste. We had non-believers and sworn zero wasters near us. It didn’t make it easier. Torn between the two worlds we failed miserably.

After the storm passed we sat down and discussed what happened. The conclusion was that

...we were trying to accomplish too much in too short time...

So we are giving ourselves a break. If my husband comes home with groceries packed in plastic bags, it is not the end of the world. If guests bring sweets in plastic boxes, I take care of those when I have the energy and will to do it. And yes, there is a pile of neatly organized, dirty plastic boxes on my kitchen counter. And it will stay there for at least one more day or until whenever I will decide to deal with that.

Rule of thumb is start slow and star small. And

...move away from perfectionism for the sake of success and keeping your inner drive.

If you would want to improve your physical form starting with heavy lifting and running a marathon would be insane. It would cause you physical harm and most likely this would lead to swearing off sports in general.

Normally you would start by long walks, turn them into slow jogs and with time you would be ready for that marathon. With training your physical abilities, you would train also your inner drive. The inner drive keeps you going. It helps you get out of the bed on a rainy morning and put on those running shoes. It keeps you optimistic and lets you avoid that off-ramp when things get tough.

The same applies to going zero waste -

...start slow, start small.

We learned that with new habits, like reducing consumption and going waste-free, preparation is the key. We went through the typical fail situations that drained us and prepared a list that would help to avoid them in the future.

To create your A game:

  • Keep a shopping bag in your car or purse. Especially important when you don’t plan to do any shopping.
  • Prepare boxes, bags and whatever you need for a typical shopping. Do it right after each shopping not before, and keep it within a hand’s reach.
  • Always take a few extra produce bags with you. We calculated that for us the optimum is 3 extra bags.
  • Do shopping just for few next meals, not all week. This will help you to avoid spoiled products if plans changed and you ate out a couple of nights in a row.
  • When it comes to gifts, purchase them in dedicated zero waste shops, like By default, it will mean that the gift will have a reduced impact on the environment. Or gift a service or a lesson for a new skill. Yearly rock-climbing club membership is what I got for my husband. He got me meditation lessons. Loving it!
  • Expect the unexpected. One, two or multiple setbacks doesn’t mean that you should quit. Acknowledge the problem, use each setback as a learning opportunity. It will also help you to build your mental capacity.
  • Change all-or-nothing mindset to good-enough mindset. No, it does not mean we are striving for mediocracy here. We are aiming for gradual but constant progress. Don’t let your inner critic win over positive thinking. Aim for personal best, not perfection.
  • Stop feeling guilty and don’t shame others for their choices. If someone has gotten into a shaming game towards you, a kind smile can be the simplest answer. Your job is not to educate everyone about reducing waste. However, keep some fun facts handy if you are asked directly what is that you are doing here with that compost in the freezer.




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