Breaking Free From the ALL or NOTHING Trap

 
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Often when we set out on a journey towards change, we want to jump ALL the way in and create a complete overhaul. When we decide we want change, we want that change NOW! However, this complete overhaul approach is not the most effective method of change—especially for the long-term.

When you attempt to jump ALL in, it can lead to feelings of frustration and failure if you are not able to maintain the momentum that is initially available. Trying to be perfect and creating lifestyle extremes in order to generate the change you’d like will only set you up for the other end of ALL in—nothing…

For many of us, especially when related to health and wellness, when we make a decision to change, we often want everything to be perfect. This desire has been created by the dieting industry lies and social media influencers who seem to do it ALL, have it ALL and manage it ALL so well that makes us feel that we need to exert extreme external control over our choices. The dieting, food and fitness industry wants us to believe that we have to be ALL IN with their particular theory in order to receive the desired outcome, be it weight loss, lower blood pressure, or anything else.

This simply is not true and is most definitely not sustainable. While yes, absolutely, being committed to your ultimate desired outcome is super important, however, being committed to your health does not mean you have to be rigid or take the ALL route to extreme measures. In fact, the rigidity and need to perfect only feeds into stress and fear and can cause an opposite response than desired when it comes to being/feeling/living more healthfully. Another problem with the all or nothing stance is that life will inevitably throw us challenges, there will inevitably be setbacks along the way towards change. When you can view a setback as simply that—a temporary setback—rather than as a failure, you will be FAR more likely to stick with it. This surely is better than falling into the nothing extreme.

One of the most effective ways to shift from an all or nothing mentality is to look at your ultimate goal and then break-it-down. Begin by identifying your specific goal. Then assess the specific steps you will need to take to meet your goal. Identify one of the steps you can take and then cut it in half—and maybe even in half again. You want your action steps to be doable within your current life.

With this process your progress may not be immediate but it will definitely be doable and manageable within your life. If your action step is doable it will be sustainable and will not feel overwhelming. If your action step keeps you stuck in an expectation of being ALL in ALL the time (perfectionism-yikes) and when you no longer can sustain it (and therefore don’t achieve it perfectly) you will fall back into the camp of nothing.

The trick is making consistent progress and not stressing about the final desired outcome. The trick is to break it down and make it SO doable that you do not feel at all overwhelmed or like a failure if it is not perfect. When you set yourself up with too much too quickly it is not likely that you will continue once you have a curve ball thrown into your life or that your motivation will keep up with level of intensity needed to so quickly attain your desired outcome.

The middle road is always the most sustainable. The middle road is always the most realistic and manageable—and this goes for all change. Evaluate your current goals and recognize where you may be able to make some adjustments in order to fine tune your focus, your action steps and create a rhythm of change that fits seamlessly into your life. When you do this and then take action consistently, change WILL occur, progress WILL be made, and you will find that you will meet your goals over and over again.

Progress, NOT Perfection

 
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Do you feel ready to make BIG changes in your life and yet you are waiting for the *perfect* time to implement those changes? Perfectionism is a plague. The need to feel, be or wait until everything is *perfect* only ends up creating excuse after excuse after excuse. If you really think that there will ever be the perfect timing, circumstances, or anything else to start along your personal wellness journey, no matter what your goals, hopes and dreams may be, then you will find that you will never make it happen. 

Perfectionism is loaded with fear. It is loaded with negative self-talk and feels safest and most in control when it is ruminating on the fantasy of change rather than on allowing yourself to take imperfect action towards change. Change is a process and requires many steps. The change process involves your emotions, mindset and an ability to shift your perceptions about what you want. Having a BIG vision is helpful, but when it comes to putting the change you want into action, it is most helpful to start with small, doable steps. When you consistently place your focus, effort and mindset into completing these small steps, you inevitably will create progress.

Perfectionism will tell you lies such as, “you will begin your personal wellness journey or work on your vision and goals after the trip, the wedding, the weekend, this or that holiday…” only to have something else that will trip up your ability to be *perfect* only causing a constant delay of just starting. It is imperative to change your mindset, change your focus and change your perspective to one of “try, one of today is the day, to one of imperfect action is still action.”

Here’s the cool thing about taking imperfect action, even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you want, there is still outcome. Even if your goal is not at 100% by your desired timeline, it’s way more likely to be some % closer than if you were waiting around for just the right time to begin. Let’s say your goal is to eat 7-10 vegetables and fruits per day or to exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 days/ week or to take a yoga class 2 x’s a week. Let’s say you reach the goal 60-80% of the time each week, how would that feel? How would it feel in comparison to not setting the goal, to not create and move towards your action plan and still be waiting for the *perfect* circumstances to begin your personal wellness journey? Yeah, that’s right, not so great! Whereas 60-80% is pretty great given that change is hard and life is busy and constantly distracting.

Let your new mantra become, TRY. Let your mantra be: what ONE thing can I do today to help move me in the direction of my goal? Let you mantra be: I can do it, I will do it, I have to do it no matter what. Today is the day to start. Today is the day to take any action, no matter how small. Today is the day to set out on the journey towards the change you want. Start with your vision, then set your goals, then create your actions steps, then create a plan and then do one thing every single day that moves you in the direction of the life that you want to live. I know sounds simple, but it’s definitely not easy. Perfectionism does not just go away without a fight… This process requires daily focus, review and action. This process requires dedication and pushing through many difficult emotions, thoughts and fears.

Motivation can be hard to come by so having a determined mindset is where you begin. Your journey is yours. It does not have to be *perfect*. If you are suffering from perfectionism, ask yourself why. What happened in your life that made you feel as though being *perfect* was the only way? Ask yourself what messages you received about being *perfect* that have led to feeling stuck, stagnant and the inaction that is happening in your life at this time as a result. Please be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your perfectionism is not useful. When you try, even not knowing what the exact outcome will be, know that it will feel awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning. The concept of being *perfect* at all is a myth. No one is perfect. Offer yourself a moment to acknowledge this and then decide what imperfect action you will take TODAY! Let me know what action you do take and how it feels, I’d love to hear from you!