All or Nothing
All-or-Nothing Thinking & Behaving.
Are you one of these types? You’d know it because when you look at your life, you recognize the times that you did soooo awesome on that diet and then the day you went off it, you went completely the other way. Or, the times that you started exercising and did it 7 days a week hardcore and then for whatever reason (busy life, minor injury, etc) you stopped it altogether. Or, when you got so deep in your work or a project and couldn’t see anything else going on around you and when you were finally done, you see what parts of life you missed out on! There are all kinds of ways this can come out. Often, it includes a feeling of failure if you’ve not done what you set out to do perfectly.
I’m a recovering all-or-nothing type that has learned some things along the way. Since I see similar patterns in many people I coach, it has come up to try to figure out why we are this way and how to fix it. I used to go to the gym every day of the year and if the gym was closed (Christmas!), I’d find a way to take a walk and push the hills. I had set out to exercise and not make excuses and I was not going to fail! That was not healthy! How does someone get to be so driven? Well, when you are a goal-oriented type and you also feel like there is a way to feel good about yourself, you take it and run! That does not mean it is healthy, though. Mindset and the way that we think is just as important. I don’t believe it is healthy to make exercise, perfect eating, work, or any other thing to be our driving force in life. Talk about imbalance!
I started reading a lot on this subject after a client said she’d like to know why she is like this and how she can change. Some psychology articles point to a mild version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many of us have low levels of this which is why we succeed in school or work and why we love to make check lists and mark things off. But, it doesn’t totally derail our life, so it’s considered mild. Another attribute of all-or-nothing people is Perfectionism. When we don’t do things “just right” or something is not “perfect” we kick ourselves or throw in the towel and get down on ourselves and negative about our ability to do anything “right.”
The more that I read about all-or-nothing types of thinking and behavior the more that I realized it sounded a lot like the way our enemy likes to attack our minds. We may have a tendency to work hard toward a goal, but when we aren’t perfect (and who is?) the surest way to get us REALLY off track is to condemn us, plant thoughts of “you won’t ever get it right” or “you tried and failed again.” If we took the time to listen to what God says, here is what He would say “I love you. You are my beloved. You have My love, power and self-control. You have the mind of Christ. My mercies are new every morning. I will not leave you nor forsake you. That is what you WERE! But you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified by the blood of my Son. I am making you into a new creation! The old has gone, the new has come!”
What does a person do who knows that they tend to be all-or-nothing in their behaviors and way of thinking? For me, it became a process of refreshing my mind each and every day. Taking the time to listen to what I was saying to myself. Every time I would hear the negative loop about “you messed up” or “you’ll never get it right,” I’ve replaced it with “I have the mind of Christ. He is making me a new creation. That is what I WAS but I am washed. I am sanctified. I am justified, because of Jesus.”
Now, when I hear that negative thought, I don’t even think about it but I hear those thoughts pop out! Sometimes I will laugh out loud. I can hardly believe it. But that is how we renew our minds.
I will always be an all-or-nothing type. One area that I think the “ALL” part is healthy is in making God my ALL. He has transformed so many parts of me. He has done it through love, not beating me down for not getting it right.
If you struggle with this way of thinking, you might want to try what I do. I pray for God to tell me what would be a good way to meet my goal. I take the time to slow down and listen and see if it matches up with His Word and is it something I imagine Jesus would say or do? When I find myself getting too wrapped up in doing it “just right” then I step back and slow down. If I feel like I’m “failing”, then I pray that God would help me just get back on track. I only look back to see what led to me not doing what I thought I should. Is there any trigger for it? If so, I plan ahead for the next time so the trigger won’t take me off track. But, the one thing I don’t do is beat myself up. I say “thank you, Lord, for showing me how I can be more like You and that I get to talk to You every day about it!”
That exercise habit? I still love to exercise, but now I will go days without it and think, hmmm when was the last time I exercised? And, I’ll be excited to go get active again. During my recoveries from surgeries I’ve been unable to do any exercise and my peace and joy remains. It is not dependent on what I can “do” but on what God is doing.
I am so glad that God has shown me what it means for Him to be my All in All