All or nothing. Black and white. Only the best will do. Streak thinking. These, some of my greatest thinking errors, have been a huge cause of sucking joy out of my life. When I want to try something new or reach for a goal, I’m amazing at planning it out, detailing each step and how it could be completed perfectly, scheduling myself to the minute, and creating to do lists that would amaze (or probably just overwhelm) anyone.
Next comes the preparation. I am also good at that. I will research the process, method, and come up with a list of items and tasks needed and get to work on them. Throw out all the junk food. Buy the workout clothes and equipment. Find and purchase the supplies for the DIY project. Wash and cut and pre-pack salads for a whole week. I know in my head that it takes time to do these things and to achieve dreams and goals, but that’s the beauty and the pain of time, the future and past seem like they are great places to do things or to have done things. The present moment, over and over again, that’s where I get stuck.
Now, the doing. Here’s where I typically fall on my face. If I do get started on the goal, if I have a misstep or take a day off, I somehow go from judging myself as “doing okay” to “failure”. I get incredibly discouraged and feel like giving up entirely, because I just ruined everything by proving how terrible I truly am at this. Other times this is just a matter of realizing, “Hey, maybe I didn’t want that as badly as I thought.” or “That’s not as fun or rewarding as I hoped it would be.” This, I have learned to accept. Like knitting for example. I think that was a phase for me. Especially considering I live in Florida. So, I pretty much quit knitting and I’m ok with it, like, my yarn stash doesn’t pointedly stare at me anymore wondering where I’ve been and why, we have a good relationship now. So, no I’m not ready to give up my stash of yarn just yet, because you never know…. #isthereacraftsupplyhoardersanonymous?
What is harder for me to accept are the things that I feel like giving up on that I also feel like I *should* pursue or want in life. Like health-related stuff. Or things I do truly enjoy, like mountain biking and painting. I return to these again and again because I know that I want them in my life or I believe they are good for me and that choosing them is healthy and right. So, how do I stop being an all-or-nothing thinker?
I think the answer lies in a simple semantic change. I need to start being an all-or-something thinker. I recently have been reading and enjoying a lot of Jon Acuff writings and talks (he does short videos now and then and posts on his facebook page) and one concept that makes SO much sense to me that I’ve been holding onto is, “Some beats none”. So simple right? Some exercise is better than no exercise.
Some healthy food is better than no healthy food. Some painting is more fun than no painting. It’s just not so easy to think like this when the changes I want to see or the thing I want to do seems so urgent yet so far away. I want to change all at once. That’s more my style.
It is so NOT my nature to do a little bit repeatedly and consistently over time, but let’s face it, in life, there are only certain things you can batch process. Photo editing, food prep (to an extent), writing, growing succulents (to an extent), and laundry will work that way, but good health, becoming a well-known reputable counselor, and wisdom will not. His encouragement that little things over time add up is way more motivating than the idea that I have to get it perfect every day or I have to finish an entire task all at once or suddenly just BE my ultimate self. #exhaustedjustthinkingaboutit
What also helps me is to separate the BE’s from the DO’s. If it’s a BE, then it’s going to manifest after a lot of consistent measurable DO’s over time. If it’s a DO, then it’s something I can participate in whenever I want, no pressure.
I want to BE healthy.
- DO exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes or more
- DO eat whole, real, smart foods almost every day
- DO get adequate sleep almost every day
- DO drink a lot of water every day
I want to DO mountain biking.
- DO mountain biking
Simple, there’s not a lot to that. But what about…
I want to BE great at mountain biking.
- DO mountain biking at least 3 times a week
- DO try new trails several times a year
- DO ask for coaching once a month
See the difference? When your DO becomes a BE, then the DO’s get a measurable component. I’ll call these BE-DO’s.
The thing I need to remember is that the BE-DO’s still add up. If nothing else, they count as experience points, right? When they don’t get me to my BE in the amount of time that I was thinking they would, then I need to analyze my measurable component. Am I doing it consistently? Am I doing it wholly? NOT PERFECTLY, but wholly – as in, am I giving it my best effort? If I’m not, chances are that I am not really believing in the “some beats none” concept. When I choose to cheat or skip out, I notice that in that particular moment, I’m usually thinking something that is my all-or-nothing style of thinking, like, “What’s the point? I’m never going to get there anyway. That’s so unreachable from here, what does it matter? I feel like I CAN’T.” Nothing puts the brakes on like that four letter word. CAN’T. But I have learned to differentiate thoughts from feelings. Want a secret trick? If you can insert “I believe” in front of your statement or in place of “I feel like” and the sentence still makes sense, then it’s actually a belief, thought, or attitude, not always a fact, and definitely not a feeling or an emotion. Change your thoughts and you can change your feelings. If the opposite is possible, it isn’t a fact.
It is so important for me to see those thoughts and correct them. Because not wanting something is OK. But lying to myself and telling myself I can’t is a whole other thing. If I had a terrible night of sleep and I don’t want to bike because it will mean being drained all day, that is OK. If I would just rather sleep in because I’m feeling like biking = exercise = pointless, that is NOT OK. Because that isn’t true. Biking = fun = friends = serenity = mindfulness = worth it. Finding something I value about my BE-DO’s is a great motivator when my BE feels too far away to motivate me.
So to recap, because bullets are fun:
- All-or-something thinking is better than all-or-nothing thinking.
- “Some beats none.” – Jon Acuff
- Differentiate between your DO’s and your BE’s.
- Break down your BE into BE-DOs and make them measurable and scheduled.
- Find something worthwhile about your BE-DO’s outside of their BE to keep you motivated and interested in staying consistent.
- Not every DO you want has to be associated with a BE. It’s okay to have fun, to go through phases of interest, and to quit things you are no longer interested in.
- Watch out for messages that you CAN’T. Find the truth, make a plan, and do your best.
What are you going to do with these tips? Anything you’re working on and you want to change your thinking about it? Me, I think I’ll keep up mountain biking in Florida, at least it’s more appropriate than knitting!