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All or Nothing Thinking: Strive for Progress not Perfection!

All or Nothing Thinking: Strive for Progress not Perfection!

When thinking about what this month’s blog topic might be, I thought about the fact that I didn’t do a blog for the month of April. I have no guilt about the fact that I missed a month, even though last December I set a goal to write one blog per month.

That’s not to say that I’m not a little disappointed about it, or wish that I had gotten to it. But I made a choice to not beat myself up for it, and to move on to the May blog.

I’m not sure when this type of reaction changed for me, but I know when I was younger, even just ten years ago, I would not have made such a healthy, positive choice. I probably would have felt like I “failed”, which would have made me feel badly about myself, which would not have motivated me to move on to the next month. When I realized how my response differed from my past self, I knew what my blog topic would be-all or nothing thinking around goals.

All or Nothing Thinking

I see this type of thinking on a regular basis in my clients. It’s an all or nothing approach to yourself and your goals. It’s also a form of perfectionism, expecting yourself to behave in perfect accordance of your goals, no matter what.

But is that realistic? So take my example, have I failed because I didn’t do a blog for April? Should I not continue on? Should I throw in the towel because I didn’t execute perfectly? Or should I consider the fact that I was away on vacation for one week that month? And I don’t know about anybody else, but somehow the week before vacation is always chaos.

Should I consider the fact that the week I came back I started a new program (more on that shortly). These are the factors that I chose to consider when I chose my response to my lack of fulfilling a monthly goal.

Whether we realize it or not, we do choose our responses.

Sometimes it takes some effort and conscious thought, but it is a choice nonetheless.

With all or nothing thinking, some people may be thinking that it’s too lax to let myself off the hook so easily. How else will I motivate myself if I’m not hard on myself?

For the majority of people, this type of response is not motivating but actually has the opposite effect. Your self esteem is shot down because you’ve “failed” or “messed up”.  There is another option.

You can hold yourself accountable, without beating yourself up.

Let me say that again because it bears repeating, you can hold yourself accountable without beating yourself up. Author Brene Brown said in a podcast that long lasting change doesn’t come from shame. I couldn’t agree more.

This approach is never more prevalent than in dieting. How many people shame themselves for their weight and then are stumped as to why they can’t get motivated to do something about it? It becomes a shame cycle and it is not motivating! For long lasting change, you must come from a place of self compassion to motivate yourself to make changes. Changing habits and thoughts takes time and is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs and that’s ok.

It’s how we respond to these missteps that matters.

As I continue to make my blog writing a regular routine for myself, I decided to learn from not meeting my April goal and figure out how to make changes going forward. So I’ve decided to implement a schedule for my blogging process. One week is research and brainstorming, second week is writing, third week is editing and sending to website developer to post to my site and once that is done, I can share on email and social media.

Next time I will be away for a week on vacation, I will adjust my schedule accordingly. But instead of trying to “find” time to write and wait for inspiration to strike, I will schedule it. This provides structure, reasonable expectations and accountability for myself. So remember, just because you blew out a tire doesn’t mean you have to total the car.

Which approach do you relate to more?

If you didn’t fulfill part of a goal, would that derail you from continuing? Or would you be understanding and move forward? If this is an area you’d like to explore more and work on, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you move past a negative mindset that impedes your progress.

Remember earlier when I mentioned a new program I’m doing? Here’s the exciting part. I am currently studying to add Mindset Coaching to my practice. I am learning a variety of new skills that will help people in achieving their goals and making whatever changes needed to lead the life they envision. Our thoughts, whether positive or negative, affect our emotions and ultimately our choices and behaviors. I am excited to share these mindset coaching tools with everyone. Stay tuned for more information, I will be scheduling mindset coaching sessions soon!

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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