So many of the women I see in my work identify as ‘All or Nothing’ gals. And to be honest, I rarely see it work out for the best!

The thing is, ‘All or Nothing’ can be hugely productive…for the very brief moment in time when ‘All’ is possible. And that can give us a false idea of it’s efficacy. But the problem with this mentality, especially when it comes to the habits we use to nourish our bodies, is that we don’t have a back-up plan when life inevitability throws us a curve-ball. So we throw the towel in (for the day at least), beat ourselves up for not doing the thing we said we would do, and promise to start fresh again tomorrow. Psychologists have actually studied this, it’s called the ‘What the hell’ effect (I’m not joking!)

What to do about it

The thing is though, ‘something over nothing’ is a much more adaptable mindset, and over time yields far greater results than an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Because we know the seemingly insignificant things done consistently over a long period of time that make the biggest impact. But what are we supposed to do about it?

The steps to a more balanced approach

In my experience working with women to build sustainable movement habits, I have found these steps to work for many:

1. Start by acknowledging that this ‘all or nothing’ mentality is an issue for you, and specifically notice where it shows up for you the most (hint- I would suggest for 80% of people it’s diet +/- exercise)

2. Define your ‘bare minimum’ in terms of the habit you are building or goal you are trying to achieve. And I’m talking BARE minimum. The amount that is so embarrassing it almost feels like it’s beneath you. An amount that you could still do if you had a sick child home or were away on holidays or out for dinner. (Eg. if your ultimate goal is to be someone who does 150mins of cardio and 2-3 strength training sessions each week, your bare minimum could be a 10min walk a day)

3. As you become consistent with this bare minimum, you add just one more bit in. And I mean one (because this is often when people get excited and fall back into the all or nothing thinking) (Eg To your bare minimum of a 10min walk a day, you add in 10 squats + 10 wall push ups once / week)

And when (and I say when, not if) you have a bad day or couple of days, and you can sense self-flagellation coming on… you:

4. Choose to practice self compassion instead. This means that you speak to yourself like you would your closest friend or someone you love. You acknowledge what you’ve achieved and you remind yourself that you are capable of change. Because self-compassion is not a cop out, it’s actually linked to perceived competence and self-efficacy, which makes you more likely to achieve your goals

5. Once you’ve give yourself some love, you dial down your efforts rather than flick the switch off, or you revert to your bare minimum if this is still achievable.

Sounds simple, right? You might be nodding along to this thinking it all makes sense, but the key as always, is the doing bit. And like anything, this stuff takes time… So if you identify as an all or nothing person, start with Step 1 above and pick just one area of your life to focus on.

Where in your life does ‘all or nothing’ show up for you the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!