How to Think Better: all-or-nothing mindset

The all or nothing mindset is self-talk focused on extremes.

  • If I don’t stick to my diet perfectly, I might as well give up trying to lose weight.
  • If I don’t get 25 people to sign up for my workshop, it’s a waste of time.
  • If I don’t perform flawlessly, I’m a total failure.
  • We had a disagreement and now the weekend is ruined.

An all or nothing mindset is black and white thinking that sees no gray. There is no middle ground. It’s either/or. Perfect or why bother.

This type of polarized thinking has its own language: Always, never, nothing, every…

  • I forgot my friend’s birthday. I always mess up.
  • I was laid off. I’ll never get another job.
  • Our trip got cancelled. Nothing ever works out.
  • If I can’t work out every day, I’m not going to work out at all.

Let’s compare an all-or-nothing mindset versus a different way of thinking.

All-or-nothing mindset

I didn’t get 25 people to sign up for my workshop, which was my goal, so the workshop was a waste of time. No one wants what I have to offer. I’m such a failure. Maybe I should just give up this line of work.

A different way of thinking

I didn’t get 25 people to sign up for my workshop, which was my goal, but I did get 8 people. I learned a lot about how to more successfully market next time around. The feedback I received from the 8 attendees was really positive, so I know the workshop is a solid offering. I’m going to take what I’ve learned and leverage it for next time.

The difference is a willingness to acknowledge both negative and positive—and then integrate them into a realistic, empowering whole.

It’s up to you: Do you really want to live an either/or life? What if you were to operate from a mindset that’s able to see and embrace the middle ground?

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