Progress, not perfection (wins, not "streaks")

I don't have a "streak."


You know. The thing where you say, "I haven't watched porn in two weeks...I'm going on 30 days...I haven't watched porn in two months...A new record for me!"

I can tell you roughly how long it's been since I had a major shift and started experiencing true freedom. But I don't measure my progress by how long it's been since the last time I acted out. I don't track my "streaks."

Why, you ask? Doesn't this help you gauge your success? Doesn't it help motivate you to go further?

In theory, this would seem to make sense. And for years and years I did keep track of my streaks. But based on my experience, and seeing the struggle from both sides now, here's what I've found.

What are some of the side effects of keeping track of your streak? Think about it. When your progress and success is based on how long you've gone without watching porn, and if you have that continually rising streak hanging over you, what does that do?

It tends to increase the pressure to "not mess up."

Which makes sense. You don't want to have to start over. You want to keep that streak going. You don't want that letdown, that disappointment of having to start all over after reaching a really long stretch (maybe even a new record).

Breaking the streak and having to reset that clock brings feelings of disappointment, frustration, and even hopelessness ("Great, yet another broken streak.")

Struggling with porn already causes heavy feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. Who would ever say, "Oh the shame and guilt isn't enough of a burden. Let's throw some disappointment and frustration on top of that please."

I found that when I tracked my streaks, it ended up just adding additional pressure, and another layer of hard, heavy feelings.

And here's the thing: what do we tend to do when we experience hard feelings? We want to escape from them. We want to run to a place where we can avoid the feelings and feel good instead. Even if only for a moment.

And where is one place we go to find that escape?

Yep, porn.

This is how streak-tracking can actually feed the porn struggle rather than help free you from it. The increased pressure of not wanting to break the streak, and the added hard feelings of disappointment and frustration when the streak is broken, can hinder our pursuit of freedom rather than help.

Okay, then what should we do instead if we are not measuring our progress in this way?

Here's an alternative to consider: Keep track of your wins.

Yes. Instead of tracking how long it's been since the last time you watched porn, you track the instances that you felt the urge to watch porn, but you didn't do it.

Track each one of those wins. Record them. Reflect on them. Monitor them. Review them. Analyze them. Replay them in your mind.

The fourth step of the P.A.T.H. Plan, the "H," stands for "high five." This is where, after completing the first three steps (Pause, Acknowledge, and Timer), you record your win. You note it somewhere. In a journal. On your phone. Or even better, get a clear jar and put small beads or pebbles in the jar for each win. This way you can see your wins in a tangible way. And if you place the jar in a prominent spot, you can see and remember your wins multiple times a day.

Each of those beads, or pebbles, or journal entries, or notes on your phone, is an actual, real step you made on your journey towards the fresh air of freedom.

As you start to accumulate those steps, those wins, and as you reflect on them, relive them, and remember them, it feels good. It fuels you. It energizes you. It motivates you on your journey towards freedom.

"Wow, that's four times that I successfully completed the P.A.T.H. steps instead of watching porn."

"I can't believe I've done this 'allow the urge' thing ten times. I feel like I'm getting the hang of it."

"Look at that. I've gone through the P.A.T.H. Plan twenty times instead of watching porn. I feel like my brain has been upgraded."

(By the way, that brain comment is an exact thought I had just a few weeks after implementing the steps in the P.A.T.H. Plan.)

The journey to freedom is built on small wins. One step at a time.

Tracking each of those steps helps you see your progress. It provides powerful fuel and hope for the journey. It enables you to stop, take a look back, and see how far you've come. It helps you reflect and take in that amazing feeling of progress. And it fuels you to keep going.

To take that next step.

Journeying with you,

-Dan

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