all or nothing mindset

The All or Nothing Mindset: And why it never works

Lately, I’ve encountered a lot of people who had the ‘All or Nothing Mindset’ in the pursuit of their goals and ambitions. It was quite obvious that it wasn’t working for them and I want to share with you why…

… in case this is your approach, too.  

But, before we go fully into it and why it’s probably not the best strategy for success, let’s get on the same page about what I actually mean by ‘All or Nothing’ Mindset. 

What is all or nothing mindset?

All-or-Nothing mindset is when people want to either “be 100%” otherwise they won’t do the xyz. It may come in a form or either pushing themselves to the maximum every time and all the time or, being 100% consistent with no blips or wobbles. 

From my experience, all-or-nothing it’s just a fancy coat for perfectionism, and frankly, perfectionism is mostly a fancy coat for fear of failure and/or fear of what other people may think if you’re not 100%.

All-or-Nothing => Perfectionism => Fear of Failure or Judgement

The human mind is simpler than you think. 

The problem with the All-or-Nothing Mindset

The problem is that the All or Nothing mindset and perfectionism are fundamentally flawed. 

Here is why: It will never be ALL (or perfect) therefore, it will always end up being nothing. 

In a practical sense: Say you want to work out every day and that’s the only way you would do it and stick with it. Well, there is a good chance that you won’t be able to. Sometimes for reasons beyond your control. So you’ll break the streak. Then your All or Nothing mindset will cause you to say: Oh crap, I’ve ruined it now. And you’ll stop. I saw most people stopping and quitting rather than bouncing back. 

You might say: But Tomas, only with ‘All or Nothing’ approach I’m fully committed. 

Bzzzzzzz! Wrong. 

What you’re saying is: I’m committed if everything goes well without glitches. That’s what All or Nothing is. And life never goes without glitches. 

Fully committed is: I’ll continue no matter what. No matter how many times I’ll have to bounce back. No matter how small improvements I’ll need to make. I’ll continue until I get to my goal. 

That is commitment. 

(All-or-nothing thinking has also been linked to depression. )

The solution to the All-or-Nothing Mindset

First of all, rather than: all or nothing, think: no matter what

This kind of commitment will actually get you somewhere. 

Secondly, learn to see the bigger long-term picture. Growth and accomplishment are about incremental progress over a (long) period of time. So don’t smirk over baby steps. Someone who is committed to making 10,000 baby steps will almost always out achieve anyone who is willing to only give it a few big shots as long as things go well. 

With that said, think of it this way. 

ALL-OR-NOTING MINDSET: Imagine you want to start getting up early for 100 days. So you wake up early 5 times, and then you snooze in. “Damn! I broke the streak! Ok, let’s try one more time”. Another 3 days and then you snooze in again. “Damn it! There’s no way. It’s not working”. 

NO-MATTER-WHAT MINDSET: The same scenario. You woke up early the first 5 times. Then you snoozed in. “Oh well, let’s try again”. You wake up early for 3 days, and then you snooze in again. “Oh well, let’s keep it going”. 

Now, let’s say you keep snoozing in every 4th day. You might think, well, what’s the point, I’m failing all the time. 

What you’re missing is that even though in 100 days you’ll have “failed” every fifth day, that’s 20x, you also succeeded 80x! Don’t you think succeeding 80x would make a difference? 

Going with the waking up early example, if you wake up 2h earlier every day that would add up to 160 extra hours for you. 

That takes me to developing the ability to taking your (fragile)ego out of it and learn how to bounce back! Bouncing back is the name of the success game. You messed up, you get up and try again. See it as a long term commitment to making it work. Not an all-or-nothing game. 

To sum up

All or nothing is an unrealistic approach to most things and recipe for failure in most cases. Nothing in life is black and white, neither is the journey to accomplishing anything. The sooner you accept it, the sooner it will become easier and more fun. 

Start embracing the: No-Matter-What Mindset. 

Secret share: With most things I do, I set myself a goal to take action 100 times. Throughout the process, I don’t question it. I “close my eyes” and just go after it. After 100 times, I’ve not only made a lot of progress and improvement, but I also learned a lot.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways I can help you make improvements to your life.
1) Take The Lifestyle Scorecard
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2) Join my Unbreakable Self-Discipline Bootcamp
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3) Work with me privately
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  1. Farayi

    Great article to dispel the self-limiting all-or-nothing way of thinking. Tomas has a way with words and breaks down complex concepts into easy to understands points.

    • Tomas Svitorka

      Thanks a lot, Farayi, much appreciated comment. I’m glad you found it valuable.


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