Overcoming an “all or nothing” mentality

For so many years, I found myself on the failing end of resolutions and big goals. They usually had to do with health, fitness, or organization, the three areas of my life that had been ingrained in me since… forever. I would wait for the “perfect time” to start set a new goal (usually January 1), expect myself to not miss a beat, stick to my goal, and never go back to my old habit. Well… it never really worked on this way. After a weekend of binge eating, one missed workout, or one episode of frantically shoving all my clean-not-yet-folded laundry in a box because guests were coming over, I told myself “I blew it” and would give up. Not only would I give up on my goal, but I would beat myself up over it. Everyone else can keep their resolutions! Why can’t you? It was a lose-lose. I wasn’t making any positive changes and I ended up feeling bad about myself afterward. Not. fun.

It took me years to acknowledge that I had an “all or nothing” mentality in a lot of areas in my life and it was a huge barrier to making positive life changes for so long. My mind had no area that allowed me to mess up and keep going. It was always “all or nothing.” I never really thought about it… it was just the way I was. My goal or resolution definitely encompassed the “all” (eat healthy every day… work out 7 days a week… spend 30 minutes every day cleaning) and as soon as I “messed up,” my mindset shifted to “nothing” (eat junk food…never work out… sit on the couch instead of cleaning… because “I failed” and told myself I could “never achieve it”). When I realized I had this very unhealthy way of approaching my goals and changes in my life, I was able to actively acknowledge when I was having one of these moments. They were happening way more often than I realized.

Do we share this approach? If so… I’m sending a huge virtual hug. This feeling can be extremely lonely and isolating, especially if you aren’t able to open up to people about it. This was a huge area of focus for me last year, and I wanted to share a few of tips I used to overcome this:


1. Reevaluate your goal and intention. Thinking back on goals I set and “failed” at, I usually set them because…. well, that’s a good question. I wanted to eat healthy because the doctors said to. I wanted to be more organized because organized people have it all together. I wanted to work out because, hello, Instagram videos. But seriously, why the HECK am I setting these goals? It took me years to ask myself this question: why do I even want this? My advice: keep asking yourself why. And once you think you’ve answered it, ask why again. One goal I failed at for many years was to give up soda. It wasn’t until I asked myself WHY over and over again and I was able to tie the goal to a deeper value. For example…

I want to give up soda… why?
I want to live a healthier lifestyle… why?
A lot of health issues, like heart disease and diabetes, run in my family, and I don’t want to have habits that support these diseases… why?
I want to live a long, healthy life for my future family… THERE it is!

When I was able to tie the goal of giving up soda to the lifelong goal of having a family, it was only then that I was able to remind myself of my intention and accomplish it (a full blog post on giving up soda is coming soon!). If I slipped up, it was easier for me to forgive myself because instead of channeling that emotional energy into self-depraciation, I channeled it into motivation to keep moving forward toward my intention.

2. Show yourself the same compassion you would show a friend. I think this is what I struggled with the most. Why is this so hard? If you find yourself in the vicious cycle of setting big goals, “failing,” and then putting yourself down because you “failed” or didn’t get where you wanted to go… pretend your very best friend was in your shoes. Imagine she comes to you, explains her goal, her slip ups, and puts herself down. What would you say to her? What words of encouragement would you offer? Try your best to take those words and speak them to yourself. This is really hard. But when I found myself in moment of self-criticism, I would have to say: You would never say these words to someone else, so why are you saying them to yourself?

3. Remind yourself that there are no rules. The rules and expectations we serve ourselves are our own creations, and we can redefine them whenever we want! Looking back on it, I can’t believe how many times I threw away a goal because I slipped up once or wasn’t following the “rules” I set for myself. It was alway super inspiring to hear about people who quit a bad habit cold turkey, but no matter how many times I read those stories and was inspired by them, I was not wired that way. But for years, instead of accepting this quality about myself, I tried time and time again to quit cold turkey. Ugh. Once I accepted this, instead of putting myself down for it, I was  able to focus on my own personal journey and leave this “all or nothing” mindset that held me back from making progress for so long.


If you’re a week into your New Year’s resolution and you’ve slipped up or you are close to throwing in the towel, I hope these three reminders help propel you forward in some way. Resolutions, goal-setting, and making positive life changes are hard. And, if you’re like me, you’re hard on yourself. Every day I try to make a conscious decision to celebrate small milestones, even if they’re tiny compared to someone else’s. I encourage you to decide to celebrate the small things, embrace the slip ups, forgive yourself, and continue on toward your goal, no matter how big or small.

Lyss

1 Comment

  • Reply arastasia rolain February 6, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    You are magical my friend. <3

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