‘I WILL START AGAIN ON MONDAY’ The trap of ‘all or nothing’ thinking By Karen Reedman
posted on 10/01/2016 10:36:00 PM
Progress, not perfection
The truth is that no one is perfect. No matter which diet or training plan we follow, we will have days where we blow it. That’s human nature. Waiting for the perfect state of ‘motivation’ is a waste of time and resources. Motivation will come and go and it will fluctuate like the wind as you navigate through the minefield of every day life.
The pursuit for progress rather than perfection should be the number one goal; incremental, steady and sustainable progress. In fact, true success is the sum of each and every good decision we make, each and every day.
It’s time to say good bye to the ‘I blew it, I will start again on Monday’ kind of thinking – once and for all. By implementing simple and powerful strategies, you can challenge and re-frame this type of thinking and without a doubt, change the direction and fulfillment of your life.
Our thoughts can often be flawed
Something that I’ve learned over the years is that just because we think something, it doesn’t make it true. Often our thoughts are flawed and they sometimes are the very reason we are not achieving success in a particular area.
‘All or nothing thinking’ is sometimes referred to as ‘polarised thinking.’ It is a negative thought pattern that has the potential to steal your dreams and rip hard at your self-esteem.
Let’s make it real
I’m going to describe a common ‘all or nothing scenario’ that will demonstrate how this type of thinking might play out in your life:
You are 10kg overweight and you have set yourself a goal of shedding fat and getting fit and healthy. You get yourself an awesome PT, nutrition plan and new training gear. You set yourself up in all areas for success and you begin the journey fiercely committed.
The first few weeks seem easy as you take on your lifestyle with gusto. You don’t slip up, not even once. In fact you pride yourself on your ability to rigidly stick with the program – to do it ‘perfectly.’
However, a few weeks in you get sick. You have a week off training and suddenly find yourself quickly slipping back into old habits. You think to yourself ‘oh well, never mind, I will get back on track once I’m better.’ Instead of controlling the ‘controllables’, which is your diet over this period, you throw the baby out with the bath water and binge on all the foods you feel you have been missing out on.
You start back the following Monday and struggle a little to get back the momentum you had generated. However you push on. Later in the week you have a fight with a work colleague and you go home angry and frustrated. You justify the alcohol and the potato chips saying you’ve had the worst day and you deserve it. But instead of it healing your anger and frustration, it makes you feel worse about yourself. You wake up in the morning feeling guilty and angry for dropping the ball yet again. You say to yourself ‘oh well this week was a shocker. I will wait and start again Monday.’
And the vicious cycle continues and you get nowhere fast.
Can you see the pattern? Chances are you do and you have experienced it too. You tell yourself ‘if I’m not doing it perfectly there’s no point doing it all!’
Allow room to be human
In order to overcome this negative thinking trap, we need to learn to allow room to be human. To see that life is NOT black and white and there are, in fact, corridors of grey. We need to give ourselves permission to ‘have a moment’ but also learn not to turn the ‘moment’ into an ‘event.’
For example, when you hit a bump in the road and drop the ball on your nutrition and training and start saying to yourself ‘I will start again on Monday’, replace the negative thought with an empowered one such as ‘I will get straight back on track with my next meal.’ If you skip your Monday night PT session and fake illness because you just don’t have it in you that day, wake up bright and early the next day and get out and go for a run.
Momentum not motivation
You see, maintaining consistency and momentum wins the fight against motivation. Motivation will come and go. It will change with your moods and circumstance and will require continuous feeding.
Momentum, on the other hand, is a powerful force. It is the ‘wave’. Generate enough momentum through continuous, daily progress and you will start to see results in no time.
As you travel on this road, learning how to manage your thoughts and your emotions, be kind to yourself. Know that you are learning to ride the wave and even if you do fall off the board, just get straight back up again.
Challenge the thought and reframe
Now it’s time to get practical and learn how to overcome this type of thinking. The absolute key is learning to challenge and reframe your thoughts.
Let’s say you have just slipped up by eating a big slice of chocolate cake at your colleague’s birthday morning tea. No sooner have you eaten it and headed back to your desk that you begin to get furious at yourself for screwing up your diet yet again.
There are three key steps in dealing with this type of thinking:
- Catch the thought (conscious awareness). Learning to pay attention to your thoughts and the words you speak is a powerful skill to learn. The more you catch yourself thinking negatively, the greater your chance of correcting it is.
“Oh crap, you blew it again. Man you’re pathetic. This is exactly why you’re fat and will stay fat”
- Challenge the thought. This is the point where you challenge the validity of your thought. Ask yourself if it is truly accurate.
“Did I really blow my diet with one piece of cake? So far this week I have trained every day and eaten clean. Does this one slice of cake constitute ‘blowing it’? No, of course it doesn’t!”
- Reframe the thought. This is your opportunity to apply a little truth and a positive spin on your thought. Speak your reframed thought either out loud or in your inner mind.
“One piece of cake does not constitute failure. Every day and in every way I am increasing in my ability to make healthy choices for my body. I am human and I allow myself this moment. However I will not turn this moment into an event and I am getting straight back on to the horse by eating a healthy lunch.”
Learn to love yourself
Women really struggle with this. They demand perfection from themselves and often those around them. They beat themselves up for every single bump in the road and tell themselves they aren’t good enough.
Sadly, I am constantly shocked at some of the language my female clients use on themselves. They speak about themselves like they are their own worst enemy. ‘I’m disgusting. I’m fat. I gross myself out. I have no will-power. I am doomed to look this way forever.’ I could honestly write a book on it!
What we need to understand is that if we can’t love and be kind to ourselves and see ourselves as a beautiful and evolving soul, then who will?
Make it a priority to surround yourself with positive people. As the saying goes, we are the average attitude and income of the five people we spend the most time with. Have you chosen your inner circle wisely? Do they love and accept you for just being you?
I am a firm believer that the most important conversations we will ever have are the ones we have with ourselves. What we think and believe about life and ourselves is what will be. If you aren’t moving forward in your endeavour to live a healthier, fitter, happier life then it’s most probably a result of your ‘negative thinking’.
We can blame the PT, we can blame the diet plan, we can blame our partner, our job and everyone else, but there is only one person who holds the key to your dreams and that person is YOU!
So do what I do, rather than striving for perfection, which is unattainable anyway, strive for progress and generate fierce momentum instead. Embrace the grey and accept it as part of your journey to greatness. After all, without they grey, we would not appreciate the rainbow.
Karen is a personal trainer and life coach with over nine years of experience embracing a mind, body and soul approach to lifestyle change. During this time Karen has worked with hundreds of clients to help them achieve lifestyle, health and fitness goals. She has shown plenty of creativity and innovation in her approach, launching her transformation challenge culminating in an annual calendar and achieving recognition from major fitness media.