How All Or Nothing Thinking Is Keeping You Stuck
Ep. 138
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    Last week we talked about having a healthy self-concept and the need to give ourselves room to stumble, learn, and grow into our full potential. And while we are worth the investment in growth, we need to also manage our expectations of how that will look.
    This week, we dive into a root cause of so many of our problems: all or nothing thinking. Hyper fixation on our end goals clouds our vision of the small steps and setbacks that can really help shape us. Everything doesn’t have to be absolute or black and white. Learn to live in the grey area and I guarantee you’ll appreciate your results.
    • And if you need help with eliminating this type of thinking so you can make progress on your dreams, I’m starting my 6-month group program next week. You don’t have to do this alone. If you want to help getting unstuck and finding your dream life, you can find out more information at

Show Transcript
Hey buddy. I never know what to say. Should I say everybody guys? Should I just call you quitters? Hello, quitters. Welcome. I'm so glad you're here. Let me know what you think I should call you all because I feel like everybody is so generic. Hello friends. Okay. I'm sorry for the long introduction. How are you all? I hope you are. Well, I am recording this before I go. By the time you hear this, I will have taken a week off and gone to the mountains for snow, with my kids. I'm very much looking forward to that and actually relaxing a little bit. So that's always nice. If you don't follow me on the grams, the old Instagram, you should. I do a lot of Q and A's there. So if you just have questions about your career or mindset blocks or things that you need help with, come on over and follow.

Sorry, because I do a Q&A at least once a week, if not more. And I think they're pretty helpful if I do say so myself. So comma, find me on Instagram at lessons from a quitter and join in. Okay. I'm actually really excited about this topic because it is something that most of us struggle with and it is a product of our pesky brain and it ruins a lot of things. So let's talk about how to deal with all or nothing. Thinking this can also be called black and white thinking. We all do it. Okay. It is a natural way that our brain likes to go to a natural thought process. It's just really important to be aware of it. So you can catch yourself when you're doing it because it is the source of so many of our problems. So all our asking thinking basically is looking at things in absolute terms.

It is black and white. That's it? Our brains love to think like this, like there is a right and a wrong, you are either a success or you're a failure. You either won or you lost, right? There's no in-between your life is either wonderful or it's terrible. And it's like, everybody's life on Instagram is wonderful and my life is terrible. Okay. You're either creative or you're not. Gosh, I spent my whole life thinking like, Oh, I'm just not one of those creative people. I guess I'm just not a human because we're all creative. But like, because I equated creativity with artists and things like that, it leaves no room for gray area, which is pretty much all of our life. Right? Most of our lives are just gray area. And yet our brain loves to think that it's not that it's an absolute.

And so the real problem with this, there's a number of problems. But one is that when you are facing a problem, it, does it leave you the ability to see possible alternatives or solutions? Okay. It is again, all or nothing. And this is what so many of our fears are kind of based on, right? So many people that I talk to that catastrophize everything it's like either have to stay in this job, or I'm going to end up being homeless, living in a van down by the river, right? There's no in-between. There's no, course-correcting, there are no alternatives to what I can do. Like those are my options. And so of course, I'm going to stay in this job. And when you start seeing that, like that's what my brain is doing. This is ridiculous, right? It's not all or nothing. There's a ton of steps in between that.

That's when you can start actually looking for solutions or figuring out like, what would I do if it didn't go exactly the way that I want it to go. Another problem with this is that the, all that positive aspect in that duality is oftentimes impossible to obtain, right? It requires perfection. And because our brains already have a negativity bias, most of us tend to think that we don't meet that perfectionist ideal of all. And so it makes us fall into nothing. So I'll give you an example. Like if you were going to say like, you're either smart or you're dumb or let's say, you're going to say your life is successful or it's a failure, right? Most of us keep moving the goalposts. And our definition of success is something that is ever-evolving. And we never quite feel like we have made it there.

So when you're left with those two alternatives, like, is my life successful? Am I a success? And your brain is saying like, no, look, we're still unhappy. We still get stressed and anxious all the time. We're working too much. You know, we don't have a handle on, are people-pleasing, whatever it very quickly makes you think like, well then I'm failing. If I don't have the job that makes six figures and I don't have the house with the white picket fence and the marriage that's perfect. And all this other stuff, I just don't know how to do this life. Then I'm failing at this life. Right? And so it very quickly us feel like we are on kind of the short end of that stick. Think about it. When like you have a bad day, right? A million things go right in your day. Every single day, everything pretty much works the way it's supposed to work until one thing doesn't like when we used to drive, maybe you got cut off on the way to work, or the barista got your order wrong.

Or you get an email that makes you angry, whatever. And all of a sudden it's like, that was a bad day. Like either have a good day or you have a bad day. And that's it. I want you to even think about how you evaluate your performance at work. So much of the stress that we have and the burnout that it causes is because of some form of imposter syndrome. I can't tell you how many people I talk to that suffer from this that think like, they're going to find out I'm a fraud. I don't know what I'm doing because there is this belief that you need to be perfect, right? That you need to know more than, you know, you need to be better than you are. And one mistake, let's say you do something and it doesn't go exactly the way you want.

It sends you into a tailspin. All of us in things like if I do one thing wrong, I'm going to get fired, which 99% of the time is untrue. And intellectually. We may even know that we hold ourselves to such a high degree of perfectionism, that if we can't meet that, we think, Oh, I'm on the opposite side. Like I'm going to get fired. They're going to know I'm a fraud. I can't be this perfect person that knows everything I'm supposed to do for every task. So that just means I'm a failure. And they're all going to find out so much of imposter syndrome is this black and white thinking is this need to fit into some kind of perfect box that you're never going to fit into. And so you're always going to have these feelings of inadequacy disease, as opposed to understanding that you're a human being with flaws and everybody makes mistakes and you're going to make mistakes and you'll learn from them.

And typically it'll be fine. And if it's not, then maybe that's not the job for you because you should be able to make mistakes as a human being. And if we thought like that, so much of this like pressure that we put on ourselves would just be lifted. When you really think about your life, you know, most of your options, most of the journeys that you're going to take, it's all gray areas. I always think about this with people who talk to me about like leaving, especially if they want to start a business and they're so worried about like, will it fail or not? Right. Like, and it's always interesting to me now because I want them to know, like, what I want to point out is most of the time, most business owners that I talked to, when they decide to close down their business, it's not because it's some like absolute failure.

I feel like some people would actually like that because it would make the decision easier. Most of the time, like I say, it's just gray area. Like your business might be just humming along. Maybe it's just not making as much as you want it to. Or maybe the stress of it was more than you anticipated or you don't actually like doing the work of it or whatever, a million other things, but you could keep going. And that's why so often decisions are hard because there is no like all or nothing. There is no black and white. It's not like, Oh, you went bankrupt and you have to close your doors. And this is the exact experience I had with my photo with the company. I started the company and it was doing okay and I could grow it or I could not. And I've spent a long time thinking about like, well, what do I want to do with it?

And a lot of the thoughts around like, is it wrong to just walk away? I could grow it. Why wouldn't I want to, you know, all of those that's because there is no right or wrong answer. I sort of wish somebody would make that decision for me. So I don't have to make it same thing with like marriage. Right? Think about it. Most of the time, it's not a horrible, abusive relationship where you kind of know you need to get out. Right. Well, you know, it's just not good for you. A lot of people who are stuck in situations where they don't know if the marriage is right or wrong for them is because it's a gray area. It's could we work on it? Maybe? Possibly. Sure. Could we not also yes. Possible there is no right or wrong answer. And that's why decisions are so hard.

I talked about this a lot in the episode, one 36, where I talked about investing in yourself and investing in coaching and how a lot of people go into those programs thinking, is this going to fix everything? Like, I want to buy a program. That's going to all of a sudden, like be the right one and it's going to change everything. And that prevents you from ever getting started. And it's all again, it's like all or nothing thinking, right? Like, is this going to be the magic key that unlocks, you know, all of the wonderful things in my life and all of a sudden makes my life a success when you hear it like that, obviously, it sounds ridiculous. And you're like, I know it's not that like, it's just a step in that direction. It's just me getting started. It's one brick that I want to build this house upon.

But when you're in it, you're still desperately searching for that quote-unquote right answer. And you just have to become aware of it. When we were doing the goal-setting workshop, this came up in goal setting too. And this happens all the time in the things that we try to accomplish, whether it's goals or not, even if it's, you know, just your time management, even if it's your weekly planning, let's say you pick a goal and you're all set and you want to work on your new year's resolution. So you start out super motivated. You're about to like take the world by storm. And then what happens? Like you already know the answer. You already know this story, right? Because you do it for a week or two or a month, and then you just stop. And why did you stop? That is the question you need to be asking yourself because it's never about that first time that you mess up, let's say, quote, mess up.

You don't do the thing you're supposed to do. Let's say as an easy one, like you have an exercise goal. You want to work out three times a week. First couple of weeks, you do it. Great. Third week you get into it. You're not feeling it. You feel tired, your body doesn't feel good. You don't go. It's the thoughts that come after that, that's like, see, I wouldn't do it. I knew I was never going to stick to this. I'm just not motivated enough. I'm not good enough. I might as well give up. Now there's no point in this. Right? And then you stop it's that all or nothing thinking that is doing that you, for whatever reason, even though you known yourself, even though, you know, you're human and that no human operates like a robot. You just decided that all of a sudden I'm going to stick to it a hundred percent.

And as soon as I don't, as soon as it's not all, it's nothing, right. Then I'm just going to like shame myself and go down this spiral and tell myself how horrible I am, because I didn't stick to it all the time. The more you start realizing that it never has to be all the sooner. You start understanding that you will mess up. Like when you're approaching your goals, just like count for it. Right. Let's say even with time management, let's say you're planning your week and you're planning out your time. Just know that you're likely going to stick with it, like 70% of the time. Okay. Just like factoring that 30%. Right? Know that it's not going to be a hundred percent so that when you're going through it, you don't use it as a reason to beat yourself up. It's always funny to think about like with, especially with goals or with things that we haven't done, like, let's say you're going to start a business or something.

If you could already do it easily. Like if you would stick to it a hundred percent of the time, it wouldn't need to be a goal for you. Right. You'd already be doing it. Like if I could already work out four days a week or three days a week, I wouldn't need to have an exercise goal. But there's like perfectionist thinking is that you're going to pick a goal or you're going to decide to do something. And then all of a sudden you're going to be freaking amazing at it. You're just going to do it every day because you're motivated. Like you're not going to have human thoughts. And then when you're not, you're like shocked. And then you beat yourself up and you think there's something wrong with you. And I'm just here to tell you, there's nothing wrong with you, the human brain.

And it doesn't have to be like, I mean, they're a success or I'm a failure, either win at this, or I lose easy journey, right? It's a transformation, especially when you're starting something new. So you need to start looking out for when this shows up in your life, when are you thinking there is a right or a wrong answer. This is why so many people spend so much time in indecision. And we'll do a whole nother episode about indecision and over-thinking and how to make a decision. But this is one of the biggest reasons. People don't make a decision because they keep thinking, like, I need to find the quote unquote, right. One, I need to find the one that's like a guaranteed hundred percent success. And so I'm just going to see stuck in the loop over and over again until I find that right decision.

Even though the facts aren't changing, I'm not getting any more information. I'm just going to keep stuck because I'm so scared that if it's not the all it's going to be the nothing, then I'm going to be a failure that the only other alternative is that I'm a loser, whatever the nothing is that you've put in. And the sooner you can catch yourself thinking that way and remind yourself that there is no right and wrong. There is no black and white, it's all gray area. And that once you make that decision, you will have to make the next one and the next one and pivot and figure out what works and figure out what didn't and take a step and, you know, take another step and a million more after that, it becomes easier to make those decisions. So I want you to start noticing in your life when you are thinking that it's all or nothing.

Like I either leave this job or I don't, or I go all in on a business or I don't and the business either a success or it's a failure or whatever, and notice how it is tripping you up. And I want you to gently remind your brain that those are just thoughts and your thoughts are not real. There is no all or nothing. And the more you can start catching yourself doing it. And the more you can reassure yourself that there is gray area, and the more you can give yourself evidence of all the time that there has been gray area, the sooner you will learn to stop this type of thinking sooner, you will start catching it more and more and be like, no, that's just a lie. I'm telling myself the stakes aren't as high as I'm making them. This is likely gonna like, you know, lead to another question that I'm going to have to ponder for awhile, but it's not as big of a deal.

And when you can take that pressure off, then making decisions becomes easier. Taking risks becomes easier. Failing becomes easier because none of it is all or nothing. So I hope you take some time to figure out where this thinking has been tripping you up and how you can start overcoming it. And if you need help with this type of thinking, we are starting our six month program next week. This is all of the stuff that we work on is figuring out it's one thing to hear it. It's another thing to apply it. It's another thing to look at your own thoughts, because so many of you are going to hear this and it's going to make a lot of sense, but then when it gets down to your own thoughts, you're going to be like, no, no, no, but in my situation, there really is a right or wrong. There really is like a successful path and a failed path. And I'm telling you, it helps to have someone else's eyes kind of guide you through it and show you where the faulty thinking is. So you can start seeing it for yourself. So if you want help with that, I would love to have you join the group. You can apply and set up a time to chat, to see if you're a good fit at

I hope to see you guys there and I will be back next week with another good one. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at lessons from a quitter and on Twitter at Twitter podcasts, I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.