All or Nothing

Even though I’ve written about this before, One of the things I’ve been trying to remind myself lately is that life is not all or nothing. When I have a goal, I don’t have to look at it as met or unmet.

For example, I’ve been making an effort to eat healthier. I work at home and I don’t cook. What I eat has never been a big priority for me. Some days, it will be 2pm before I’ve had any real food (besides tea) and as soon as I realize I haven’t eaten, I will be famished and make some unwise choices. More significantly, I realized that I tend to have the “all or nothing” mentality. If I don’t have a salad to eat, I’ll just eat something unhealthy. I think “if I can’t do it perfectly right, I might as well just do it wrong.” Like if I don’t have “good” vegetables, eating corn is just as bad as eating chocolate.

Which is clearly not the case.

If I weren’t on a streak, I could totally see myself doing the same thing for exercise. Like if I can’t run for 3 miles, I might as well not bother at all. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. A 1-mile run is still considerably better than no run. And when you add them up, a week of daily 1-mile runs have a strong cumulative effect, especially compared to a week of no runs at all. In one scenario, I ran 7 miles in that week and in the other, I ran zero.

How are seven and zero interchangeable?

But this is how we tend to think: If I can’t do it right, I might as well not do it at all.

Or, “I already messed up, what’s the point?” Eating one chocolate is not the same as eating the whole box. Life doesn’t operate on the black and while extremes. Nor do your goals. When you’re mean to someone, it’s not too late. You have a million opportunities to apologize. When you break one goal, you can restart the next day. This is one of the reasons it’s helpful to let go of the day at the end of each day. If you learn to forgive yourself and let go of your guilt, you get to have another chance tomorrow morning. All you need is some self-compassion.

So, my plan for this holiday season is to remember the value of self-compassion and baby steps. If I learn to forgive myself, I know I am more likely to succeed the next day. And if I can remember that every step counts and there are a lot of smaller things I can to reach my goal (or even to not walk further away from my goal) I know that I am more likely to move forward.

As we go into the craziness and calm and inertia of the holiday season, I feel the need to remind myself that every day I do something towards my goals, however small, is another day I am that much closer to them. It’s not black or white. It’s not all or nothing. It’s all about the millions of tiny, small steps. It’s all about the gray.

It all counts.

3 comments to All or Nothing

  • Diane D

    Karen, Thank You for writing these posts. I’ve missed them while you took some time off. So much of what you say everyday resonates with me. I appreciate the time you take to share your thoughts with us. Reading your perspective first thing in the morning helps to get my day going in the right direction. As I go through the day, often a small piece of Karen Wisdom will pop into my head and remind me of the values I want to keep forefront in my life. Thank you!

  • Emie

    Baby steps and It all counts!!!!!! Sums it up perfectly!!! Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for this post. I am also an “all or nothing” type, and despite my best efforts, I still haven’t managed to break the cycle. It’s nice to know that I am not the only person who struggles with moderation on my journey to self-improvement.

    I love your blog and your daily inspirational posts. Thanks for sharing so much of your life and experiences!

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