All or Nothing
Why is it that we are so compelled to all-or-nothing mentality? I get that maybe there are times when we need to draw a hard-line and take a stance on something… but in general… through most of the decisions in life… I just don’t think the all or nothing approach is very helpful. In fact, I think that most of the time, it gets in the way.
This morning is a small, but no less valid, example. My family and I had a busy weekend. Of course, Monday morning rolls around with a bang. I wake up a little late… it’s 7:10am. I think to myself – this is not going to be a fun morning. I’m going to have to rouse my children out of bed and nag, yell, pester them continuously in order to get out the door in time for school. In hindsight, I’m thinking I could have easily woken the children and told them we were running a bit late. Instead of stressing out, I could have allowed them a little extra time, and we could have arrived at school shortly after the bell rang. Here’s where the all-or-nothing part comes in. Instead, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I guess on some level of consciousness, my mind said, “If we can’t be on time, why bother getting up?”
After arriving an hour late to drop the kids at school, and having to admit to the secretary that the reason we were late was that we “slept in”… I started thinking about this all-or-nothing attitude. It’s not the first time this type of thinking has not been helpful. Of course, the more common areas where all-or-nothing thinking gets us in trouble is food and exercise. “Well, if I’m going to have a bite of ice cream, I might as well have that whole carton!” “I don’t really feel like going to the gym… so I might as well sleep all day long!” Why is it that doing some portion… eating a few bites (which is probably all we really need to feel satisfied) or walking for 10 minutes, if that’s really what we’re feeling up to at the time… feels like failure and becomes not even worth it? When did that happen? And why does it persist?
Perhaps it gets at a very core belief that many of us have that we are not enough. That what we contribute, if it’s not the ultimate extreme, is not good enough. If we started accepting where we are… being content with what we are able to accomplish, contribute, “be” in any given moment… instead of beating ourselves up and judging ourselves for not being enough… what would happen? I think there’s a fear that we would backslide. That if we started easing up on the reigns, we would never move forward. After many, many years of pushing and shooting for the extreme… I’m starting to question whether this is true.
Take the scenario this morning with getting the kids to school. If I’d gotten up, allowed the kids to get ready in a normal, relaxed manner, and gotten them to school 10 minutes late… I probably would have beaten myself up and judged myself for being late. As it happened, I slept in, got them to school an hour late, and proceeded to beat myself up and judge myself for being late. Are you noticing a theme? What if, instead of beating myself up for being 10 minutes late, I congratulated myself for not being an hour late? Same situation, but viewed with a different lens. In one scenario, I’m feeling judged and unhappy… in the other, I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Again… same situation!
Now, I suppose you could argue that I could take the same tactic with the hour late scenario… at least I got them to school today instead of just skipping the whole day. Well… you’re right. In fact, if I allow myself that scenario… and accept that I’m doing the best I can… then I start feeling better about myself… which I can’t help but think influences the future decisions I make and how I function in the world. I guess the bottom line to me is that the all or nothing thinking tends to crop up from a place of judgment. If we can be nicer to ourselves, perhaps we can make decisions that lead us closer to how we want to be… who we want to be. And… if we can be nice to ourselves all along the way… how much happier we will be! And isn’t that what we’re all going for, after all? Don’t we all want to be happier?
Something to think about for the week! Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel