We continue to see this everywhere, whether folks think they’re doing it or not: IT’S ALL OR NOTHING OR I’M A FAILURE PILE IN A SADNESS BOWL. This is not true. We talked a while ago about discontinuing absolutes, and that’s prettttty much what we’re talking about today, because it’s pretty damn harmful. Let’s dig in
YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO AVOID A COUPLE WORDS WHEN YOU TALK TO YOURSELF
- According to psychology today dot com, there are several words (8 according to the linked article) that are considered absolutes and lend themselves to the all or nothing mindset and are typically used in a negative fashion. Here are the ones we hear most often:
- Always: this is often combined with a generalization of another person’s behavior or personality trait: “you’re always late” or even “I always end up failing at my diet” This terminology can actually keep you in a cycle of thinking that things can’t get better.
- Never: can do just as much damage when it is used to get rid of hope, flexibility, or the benefit of the doubt. “Things will never get better”, “I’m never going to see progress” “I’m never eating (cake, pizza, an entire food group) again” etc
- Everything: is often unhelpful when it is used to make a mountain out of a molehill, to go from something specific that happened to making a global generalization. Ie: You had a couple of unpleasant things happen in your day, and that turns into “everything sucks”
- Can’t: I think we’re all guilty of using this word as a weapon against ourselves, this word can be used to self sabotage. Think about one of your lifts when you thought just before you attempted “I can’t do this”…. We’re willing to bet that that lift didn’t go the way you wanted it to, just because of one word.
- Of course there are instances when these words make sense in conversation, what we’re talking about is when they’re used to negatively talk about yourself or life in general.
ALL OR NOTHING CAN RUIN YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS
- The majority of us have experienced the following scenario: OMG, IT’S MONDAY, I’M GONNA CRUSH THIS WEEK AND I’M GOING TO EAT PERFECT, AND I’M GOING TO GO TO THE GYM 6 DAYS THIS WEEK AND I’M GOING TO CRUSH EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT. And when we don’t do that exact thing to perfection, we feel like we failed. Because life happens, and things don’t go 100% to plan.
- In reality, work may not go to plan. A child may get sick. You may have vehicle trouble. Etc!
- We’ve talked about habit loops before on this podcast, but we wanted to throw out another example of what all-or-nothing mindset looks like: You’re at a party and you have one piece of cake… and then the next thought is, “I just completely fucked up my entire day of eating, fuck it, i’m going to have a few more slices” OR “my day ran long at work, or daycare got messed up and I can’t go to the gym which means I can’t workout, so I’m just going to do nothing” ← when in reality, you have an hour or two to spare and because it wasn’t as convenient as you wanted it to be, you don’t do anything. The last example isn’t being used to try to shame anyone, I do it more frequently than I would like, and I always feel guilty about it when I actually think about why my training isn’t going as well as I want.
- We throw these examples out here because it illustrates not being able to move past something negative happening and choosing to do nothing, which makes us feel like a failure, ultimately, and we get stuck in this loop because we don’t have a back up plan…. here’s your bingo word: sustainability.
WE CAN RE-TRAIN OUR BRAINS
- You do not need to be perfect 100% of the time. You do not have to be perfect, you have to be ok with being good enough on any given day.
- Become ok with messing up. Messing up doesn’t make you a good or bad person, it makes you human. You are a good person AND sometimes you make mistakes. You’re not defined by eating an extra slice of pizza on a Friday.
- Have. A. Plan. Again, failing to plan is planning to fail. We mentioned it earlier, but if you have a backup plan, a go to, for when your day doesn’t go as you’re expecting, you’re setting yourself up for success. Can’t get a workout in? Walking outside is free, and accessible to nearly everyone. Movement is movement.
- Look forward to your mistakes. Did that make your skin crawl? Sorry, not sorry. Remember that forward progress isn’t a straight line. You’re going to fuck up. Look forward to the joy, and strength it takes to keep moving forward and to get back up. It truly takes resilience, confidence and a bad ass to keep showing up for yourself. Embrace the mistakes, because they’re yours and they’re going to make those wins, big or small, that much sweeter
- Celebrate ALL of your wins. A win is a win, even if you think that adding 2.5# isn’t, or even if you think only losing a half inch, or gaining a half inch isn’t much. It’s progress, damn it.
The all or nothing mentality, in our opinion is just a fancy version of self sabotage. If you don’t allow any wiggle room for error, you’re setting yourself up to be let down, and feel like you failed, when you didn’t. You just gotta tweak the way you’re thinking about things.