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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Borer

The All or Nothing Mentality

As we approach the New Year, now is the time where many of us start to make resolutions to improve our health. Usually, these goals come alongside of an “all or nothing” mentality that ultimately leads to failure.

It may seem counterintuitive to think that the all or nothing mentality leads us to failure. Shouldn’t it lead us to success? The harder we try, the more perfect we are in the quest towards our goal, the easier it should be to achieve the goal – right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

When we have an all or nothing mentality, we set lofty, high goals for ourselves. These goals are usually unattainable in general or unattainable for the timeframe that we give ourselves.


Because these lofty goals expect perfection, and perfection isn’t achievable.

Therefore, when we go in with an all or nothing mentality and eventually fail (because you will, it’s inevitable), the all or nothing mentality brings on a wave of guilt and shame.

You feel awful for messing up, making a mistake, and FAILING, so you throw in the towel on the goal, all the while beating yourself up and overdoing the opposite of your goal. For example, if your goals was to lose weight w a diet, you might start binge eating now that you are “free.”

Why doesn’t this mentality work? Besides the perfectionism, it’s the extreme amount of pressure and restriction that we place on ourselves that leads to our failure. When we have that restriction weighing on us every day, consuming our minds and thoughts, that’s where the all or nothing mentality starts to crumble and fail.

We like to expect perfection of ourselves, and when we fail, we completely lose our minds and beat ourselves up.

When someone close to use like a spouse or friend fail at a goal, we build them up, encouraging them to keep going, etc.

Why the difference?

We tend to see ourselves in a much different light than those around us, and when it comes to our goals, we need to remember to give ourselves the grace to fail and make mistakes. This allows you to do a better job at achieving the goal!

For example, if your goal is to cut back on sugar, and you “fail” at work and eat out of the candy dish on your desk, you now have learned that maybe you can move the candy dish elsewhere so it’s not staring you right in the face all day.

Taking your perceived failures and turning them into growth moments is huge.

Then comes addressing how you speak to yourself. This is yet another huge piece in the reason why the all or nothing mentality doesn’t work. You can’t speak to yourself in such a demeaning, uninspiring way

It simply doesn’t work that way! You wouldn’t expect your friend or spouse to listen to you if you called them a failure, pointed your finger, and yelled at them for messing up.

And so the same goes for you. When you mess up, instead of giving into guilt and shame, take a second to learn from what happened. Take a moment and start asking gentle questions of yourself – What was going on that day? Have you been more stressed? In what way do you think you failed? How can you continue on from where you were instead of going backwards? How do you feel?

These are all questions to ponder and journal about before moving on and continuing on towards your goal.

If you stop and completely “fall off the wagon,” you’ll only do yourself more harm.

Because in the end consistency ,rather than perfection, is the ultimate goal.

And consistency means that you aren’t perfect, but that you are taking it one day at time. Over the course of a lifetime, that is what matters.

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