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All or Nothing Thinking

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

All or nothing thinking leads to overwhelm and exhaustion.

Have you heard of this concept? All or nothing thinking is thinking in extremes with absolutes. It's thinking that focuses on either end of the spectrum without considering the gray area in between. Examples: You are either a success or a failure. The meeting went perfectly or it was a disaster. Everything will work out or fall to pieces. Those with anxiety, people who are perfectionists, and very detail-oriented people tend to be more susceptible to all or nothing thinking; but most everyone has it in some area of their life. It is usually easier for the brain to identify problems, so when we’re practicing all or nothing thinking, we usually spend more time on the negative end of the spectrum. This leads to overwhelm, and exhaustion. It prevents us from making progress in areas that are important to us. You might notice that you don’t start something if you don’t think you can finish it - or don’t think you can finish it perfectly. That’s all or nothing thinking. When we don’t think we can do it all, we default to nothing - which isn’t normally the best option. Sometimes it can be, but not as a default response. To move away from the binary nature of all or nothing thinking, it’s helpful to redefine success to encompass everything in between all and nothing. If all is the maximum effort or result, then anything just above nothing is the minimum. Success redefined then, is everything from the minimum effort all the way up to maximum effort. Maybe your inbox is full of emails that need your attention, but you’ve put it off because you don’t have a full day to devote to the project. Shifting your idea of success to anything above nothing, gets you moving. You might only have 5 minutes and realize you can take care of one email in that time. That’s success! That’s one email that all or nothing thinking would have prevented you from taking action on. Is all or nothing thinking holding you back? When you shift your definition of success, what can open up for you?!

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