Three ways the “All-or-Nothing” Mindset is Holding You Back

failure ugh.jpg

I have a lot of clients who live in the world of all-or-nothing.

They’re very driven people—they’re some of my favorite people.

But I’ve noticed a patter with this mindset that really doesn’t help people….

When making a mistake or falling short in some way leads to you throwing in the towel, well that just doesn’t work well with the way humans learn and progress in things.

Especially when it comes to achieving weight loss goals…

Three ways the All-or-Nothing Mindset gets us into trouble:

  1. All-or-nothing immediately creates a feeling of failure at the first mistake. You kick into a self “blame-storm” and all the energy you could be putting into re-evaluating your weak point, what you can constructively correct etc, goes into being devastated, frustrated and depressed about the error you just make. What if going “all in” meant planning for how you would handle failures? What if that energy you just used to beat yourself up (which turned into eating a carton of ice cream and having a pity party with Netflix), could be hopeful and efficient? It could be, but not with the all-or-nothing mindset.

  2. “ALL or nothing” doesn’t leave room for learning. From the get-go, we are telling ourselves: “You can’t mess up. This is All, or Nothing.” While that may create a sense of motivation in the short-term, it really undercuts our best learning and focus by creating that pressure. Over the long run, it’s draining, and not always maintainable. Hence why so many people with the All or Nothing do it all, for a short time, and then do Nothing.

  3. Worst of all, perfectionists and others of us who live life in an ALL-or-NOTHIN’ mindset, we sometimes don’t start things because of this “can’t-mess-up-even-once” box (jail) we put ourselves in! We want to stay safe. From what? From ourselves being mean to ourselves. (I am very guilty of this and recovering gradually) I used to be so terrible to myself - “Self Assault” as Brooke Castillo (my teacher) calls it. So we don’t start.

If you don’t cut it out….

If you continue to live like this, you’ll continue to put off or avoid the most valuable and wonderful things you could create and contribute in this life. And that sucks. It feels like somebody is pinching your little butterfly wings so you can’t fly! Ouchie!

What to do in stead

Really, there are SO many other (and, cough cough, BETTER) options available to you in regards to how you approach projects, goals, etc.

But first things first, girl you have GOT to give yourself some slack.

I know you, you’re hard on yourself.

It feels effective. It feels important. And it feels like the responsible thing to do (are you an oldest child?)

But let me just tell you, and do my best to show you from a life and weight loss coach (and recovered perfectionist) perspective,


All the negative emotion drives you AWAY from action… Have you noticed?

Avoidance? Procrastination?

So, choose to say “no thank you” when your brain wants to jump on your case.

Here are some strategies…

  1. Plan to fail. You heard me. Rather than the surprise and devastation of failing after you’ve done so well for so long, just own up to it beforehand. It’s called #beinghuman. And I want to offer that, even in the moments you failed, you were doing the best you could. You are always doing your best, we all are! All of the time. Even when it’s not what we wanted it to be, the messy and all parts of it, is our best. Choose to believe that, and see how it feels?

  2. Schedule time for learning - Rather than just having the end goal in sight, and each day hoping you’ll stay strong enough to get there, block out some hours or mins on your calendar to devote to learning and understanding the tools you’ll need to help you do this. Support yourself with knowledge. (For weight loss, I run an amazing course that could do this for you. Email me for details:

  3. Failing constructively can make you so much stronger - don’t be confused - never failing is NOT the goal. It’s not the plan. If it were, God would have made up perfect. …There is something to be gained with the imperfections and glitches being built in. So, rather than putting all that energy into planning how you WON’T fail, just learn to fail lightly, in a way that is not heavy or devastating. Don’t make it mean terrible, excruciating things.

All this being said, it doesn’t mean that perfection in some area of your should not be striven for, or that it can never be attained. You can plan to fail AND still become perfect at something! Planning to fail doesn’t CREATE failure, it disempowers it.

Some new thoughts:

Feel free to use any of these next time you’re setting goals, or after you’ve messed up:

  • Failure earns success.

  • The worst thing that can happen is a feeling.

  • I was made for this.

  • Messing up is human. This is no big deal.

  • My potential is limitless

  • What I make failing mean is the worst that can happen

  • I can redefine my own definition of failure if I need to

  • Success is starting and failing—trying is success, always

  • Worry only pretends to be necessary

  • Being mean to myself is being mean to myself - it is not helping me achieve my goals.

  • What others think about me is 100% about them

Hope those help!

You can do “All-or-Nothing”, but make sure the “ALL” includes":

“ALL” failures.

ALL messy-ness.

ALL mistakes.

…Because unless you include ALL your humanness in ALL your doings,

You really will have nothing. You’ll have the small, safe things. The risk-free things that just about anyone can do successfully.

But if you want it ALL… ALL your dreams, ALL the good things you could become and do in the world!…..

You’ll need to love all the mistakes and pitfalls along the way.

You’ll need to embrace your human weakness and error, and learn to fail with grace toward yourself, grace toward others.

Me personally, I believe this is the essence of the role of Jesus Christ. I believe that God knew we would fail as humans—he knew that was part of how we would become who we were meant to be. Growth and evolution include failure. So, God sent us His Son, who had perfect character and would be able to Atone, or to take upon his perfect self, our mistakes and sins. The eternal rules we’d inevitably break on our own path to Godhood ourselves.

Just ask yourself this one question: What if failure and imperfection is the only way to do this human thing? What if it deepens our joy when we finally succeed, and makes us deeper more capable beings?

Just a thought.

Love to you,


P.S. - Allowing for and planning for failure doesn’t mean you’re lowing your bar - it’s a strategy to get you there faster. It’s failing in a devastated way; making an “oops” turn into “you have accomplished nothing” that really lowers your bar. Makes the bar so heavy.

Liz LangstonComment