My battle with All or Nothing
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"It's all or Nothing"...a phrase that sounds definitively positive when most people use it. After all, giving something your all demonstrates commitment, drive, determination...it is swearing an oath that you will accomplish what you are setting out to do. Yet this phrase seems to be at the root of many issues in my life, and while I have known for awhile I struggle with this, I never fully understood why...but I think I am finally beginning to.
Most people only think about the "all" side of this phrase when they embark on their goals and don't really consider the possibility of "nothing." However, there are times when "all" isn't possible, and when that happens, "nothing" can become an unhealthy coping mechanism to quickly eliminate discomfort, guilt, shame, etc. In my life, I learned at an early age that achieving anything less than perfect results means I did not do the job to the best of my ability. When the standard you seek to maintain is perfection, giving it your "all" takes on an entirely new meaning, and you are just setting yourself up for "nothing." When the goal or expectation seems too difficult, boring, overwhelming...pick your adjective..."nothing" becomes the escape hatch to relieve the pressure.
"Nothing" is crafty and sly...it whispers enticing little lies and patiently waits for moments of weakness to seduce you like prey into a web of false gratification. "You can't stay on your plan at that restaurant or social gathering, how will you ever figure out how to count those foods? Just skip it and don't count today. Better yet, the weekend is right around the corner--they're never easy, so why not just start fresh on Monday. Yes, Mondays are always a good day to start over, right? And, since you're taking a few days off, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to eat all those yummy things that you have been saying no to lately, while you don't have to count it or worry about portion control. That's what breaks are for, right?" and on an on the lies go. The same could be said for so many other areas in my life...not exercising, not keeping up with my house chores, overspending, wracking up debts..."nothing" sure turns into "something" in a hurry!
So I have decided that perfectionist thinking with "nothing" being the alternative just has to go. To replace it, I'm coining a new key phrase for my journey, "All would be great, but something is enough." It's time to accept that even if there are hundreds of things I need to do differently in my life, I don't need to be perfect at any of them, and certainly not all at once. Making mistakes or achieving less than perfect results does not equate to failure and are not reasons to jump off the wagon. Baby steps are perfectly acceptable, as long as they are in the right direction. It's no longer about perfection, it's about forward progress and staying on the journey.