Categories: Self-Development

Why & How the ‘All or Nothing Mindset’ is Holding You Back

If you’ve looked up the All or Nothing Mindset, you probably have it and it’s bad for you.

Do you ever just have these thoughts?

  • If I can’t give my 100%, then it’s no use. I might as well not do it.
  • I won’t be able to finish it so I’d rather not start.
  • It’s not going to be perfect so why bother?
  • I’ve messed up already. No point trying to fix it or go any further.

This is an All or Nothing mindset.

An All or Nothing mindset is when you evaluate everything in extreme terms. Everything is either perfect or a disaster, good or bad, total success, or total failure.

Such a mindset is one of the main things that holds people back from achieving what they set out to achieve. People give up mid-way thinking that it’s not going to work out as they had planned. It holds people back from taking risks or starting something new.

But how does this kind of mindset develop?

I think it’s because of having a results-driven mindset. People set themselves far-fetched goals and when they see that they’re falling short of it, they give up completely. It’s because of their faulty belief system and unrealistic expectations of themselves and others.

A results-driven mindset perpetuates an All or Nothing mindset.

It’s very important to be process-driven. To be completely impervious to what the results might be. Even the Bhagavad Gita tells us to remain unattached to the action and the results, but keep performing the action just for the sake of it.

Usually, people with depression, anxiety, and especially OCD, have an All or Nothing mindset. Even people who have always been overachievers. They see all things as black and white. No grey. They find it hard to establish a middle ground.

Here’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life so far:

There is very little you need to know about something before you start applying it or creating something. Just knowing the fundamentals is more than enough for most things in life.

If you wait till you know everything, you will never do it. Firstly, in today’s content-filled world, you will never be able to know everything about everything. So there’s no point waiting till you do.

Secondly, 99% of things don’t require to be known fully. So if you’re stressing about not knowing everything about trivial things, it’s only hurting you.

The best strategy is to learn as you do.

Get the fundamentals in place and just start doing. When you get comfortable with the basics, level up, and learn more.

This reminds me of the 80/20 principle. That’s exactly what it is. You just need to know 20% of something to get 80% of it done.

The All or Nothing mindset gets in the way of achieving many things that people want to achieve. It makes simple things seem difficult.

One such common thing is health/fitness. People go all-in and start cold-turkey and as soon as they mess up even a little bit, they give up. That’s not how it works.

The 80/20 principle applies here too. Eat healthy 80% of the time and include your favorite foods 20% of the time.

Another mistake they make is thinking they need to know everything about nutrition and health in order to get started. No. If your aim is to lose weight, all you need to know about is the calorie deficit. 20% of the information will bring you 80% results. (In this case, 100% results, because calorie deficit is all there is for weight loss).

It’s good to be wanting to give your 100% and expect things to turn out a certain way. Nobody wants to half-ass things. But don’t spend your energy on things that don’t deserve it.

You need to do a million and one things on a daily basis. 99.99% of them don’t require your 100%. Just get them done.

The All or Nothing mindset people usually leave tasks incomplete. They set out to do something, realize it’s not going to turn out how they had planned, and give up. I am one of them actually. I’m infamous for leaving tasks incomplete, which sucks.

Sometimes, it’s important to just get stuff done instead of trying to get it done perfectly. If you always like to get in a full hour-long intense workout every time but don’t have the time for it someday, getting in a light 10-minute workout would be better than no workout at all.

All the imperfect, little efforts will add up to big results eventually (but don’t forget to be process-driven).

So, how do you ease out the All or Nothing mindset?

  1. Set reasonable expectations for yourself (most important).
  2. Tell yourself you’ll try your best to meet the expectations but not over-stress.
  3. Be completely process-driven and not think about the results at all.
  4. If you mess up, you’ll figure out a way to correct it or just start over.
  5. Absolutely give up perfectionism. Throw it in the garbage.

I want you to be happy, right now. Not wait until your life is perfect. It never will be.

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