The all-or-nothing mindset is actually a "cognitive distortion" says happiness expert Maile Proctor. It's a negative, or twisted, thought process; strictly black and white thinking. According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, "Your performance is either totally good or totally bad. If you're not perfect, then you're a failure. This binary way of thinking does not account for shades of gray, and can be responsible for a great deal of negative evaluations about yourself and others." This type of thinking can hold you back from trying and/or achieving new things in your life.
We're all guilty of this in one way or another, but perfectionists take it to a whole new level. If they can't play for the best team, they don't want to play the sport at all. if they can't get hired with by the most prestigious company, there's no use in working in that field. You know the type. They have to be the best at everything they do. Experts tell us, though, that the best way to get past this cognitive distortion is to just start. "Whatever it is, just get started, gain some momentum (which will make you feel good), reassure yourself with positive self-talk, and just keep trudging along. Here are five tips that will help you overcome your all-or-nothing attitude and help you find greater happiness, and even success!
1. Decide what your want. This means defining your goals, no matter how big or how small they might be; whether personal or professional, Then, create an action plan. Write down your goals and post them in a place where you'll see them every day. Discuss your goals with family or friends who will encourage you and will, in a loving non-berating way, hold you accountable. It's okay to think BIG, Don't let your negative self-talk discourage you from going after your goals and dreams.
2. Take action. This is where that all-or-nothing attitude really comes into play. Goals can be daunting because they require time and hard work. But goals happen with each small step you take. What can you do today that will further your dream? Don't set yourself up for failure by trying to do everything all at once. If you want to start a business, for instance, don't set off looking for a store front and hiring staff as your first steps. Instead, set yourself up for success by setting realistic and achievable small goals.
3. Celebrate your small wins. Once you've started working towards your goals, remember to celebrate your smalls wins along the path to success. This can be challenging, I know, for all-or-nothing thinkers, but celebrating the small wins helps to keep you from getting discouraged and focuses your attention on progress, not perfection, Seeing, and acknowledging, your progress is the single most important factor in staying motivated. So celebrate each small win! A verbal pat on the back or rewarding yourself by doing something fun are easy and cheap ways to celebrate those small successes.
4. Learn from your mistakes. No matter what your aspirations are, you're bound to have a few set-backs along the way. Don't let your all-or-nothing attitude tell you to give up because something didn't turn out "just right" the first time. Rather, think of those set-backs as lessons, not mistakes, and learn from them. Perfectionists see mistakes as failures that will cause them to lose the respect of others. "But, according to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, by orienting their lives around avoiding mistakes, perfectionists miss opportunities to learn and grow." Mistakes give you the opportunity to change your approach. When you learn from your mistakes, you gain traction that will actually help to move you along your path." Mistakes aren't the end of the road, they're a useful speed bump.
5. Reward yourself. Along with celebrating your small victories along the way, remember to reward yourself when you keep going after encountering a set-back. Determine what the real reward is for your progress. Make sure it's something big enough to keep you motivated. "A 1999 study showed that perceived self-interest is responsible for three-quarters of why you do things. So don't hold back from treating yourself when you accomplish something on your to-do list or take a positive step toward your goal!"
The more you can ditch your all-or-nothing attitude, the happier you'll be. Even those of us who are hard-wired for perfection can learn to celebrate our progress. Don't negate the little accomplishments that are an integral part of both your success and happiness. Go Big or Go Home sound great on the surface but, really, learning to take small steps and celebrating those tiny victories is the best way to achieve your goals.
Now get out there and start taking a few small steps!