1. Most of us subconsciously think we need to be perfect in order to make progress towards our goals.
2. This incorrect belief is highly detrimental to lasting results.
3. Leaving behind your “all or nothing” mindset is easier with a system in place.
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We’ve all done it…Eaten one cookie at lunch and thought something like, “Well, dang. Guess today is a lost cause.” So, we proceed to eat another 5 cookies and skip that day’s workout. Thinking that one action can “ruin” an entire day is normal, but normal doesn’t mean productive or correct. In fact, this type of thinking may be one of the main things holding you back from achieving your goals.
The good folks at Precision Nutrition call this the battle between the “All or Nothing Mindset” and the “Always Something Mindset.” And you guessed it. The “All or Nothing Mindset” is way more common. How many times have we said to ourselves something like, “For the next 30 days, I’m going to work out everyday, only eat home-cooked food for every meal, and cut out alcohol, sugar, and chips.” It works for a while, but the first or second time we don’t adhere to this ridiculously high standard of perfection, we feel like a failure and give up.
We’re either “all in” or “all out”
Don’t get me wrong, “all in” does work…while it lasts. But, it never truly lasts, and then, “all out” sets in. The problem is, “all out” is way easier and way more likely to be our default state if we think those are the only two options. Instead of “all in” or “all out,” we need to practice cultivating a mindset of “always something.”
This means that rather than needing to be perfect all the time, set a different standard. Each day, or at every meal, or at every workout, whatever it is, do something to help you reach your goals, whatever they may be.
This could mean:
- Enjoying that cookie, and even a second one, but making sure to still prepare a home-cooked meal for dinner instead of ordering out.
- Doing 10 minutes of mobility work (and nothing else) on those days you just can’t find the energy to work out.
- Making sure to complete your night routine even when your nutrition wasn’t on point that day.
- Hitting your daily protein or water intake target even if you had to miss your workout.
There are tons of choices, and they add up over time. We can all fall into the trap of thinking we need perfection in order to achieve our goals. Maybe we even have the memory of being “perfect” for 3 months straight. We remember how good we felt, and how effective it was. But, we selectively forget how many sacrifices we made, and that the relentless pursuit of “perfect” is why we stopped and slid back into old habits. The truth is, giving yourself the mental permission to demonstrate “healthy” behaviors and habits 70-80% of the time is the path to lasting success.
Aiming for 100% is asking to fail. So, cut yourself a break.
Here’s how to do that
To utilize a brilliant concept from the aforementioned Precision Nutrition (they’re great, by the way), create yourself a “dial” for movement, nutrition, and overall wellness. Start with something simple, like a scale of 1-5. Let’s look at nutrition, for example.
The “1” should be so easy you don’t even have to think about it, like drinking a glass of water before you leave the house or before you open your computer to start the workday. The “5” should be an incredibly high standard that you know you won’t achieve every day, but you also know would definitely help you achieve your goals. Again using nutrition as an example, let’s say a “5” looks like this: Eating a source of protein, fruit, and or vegetables with every meal, drinking 96 ounces of water, having no snacks, plus meal-prepping and planning for the following day.
Here’s a sample for all three categories to give you a concrete idea of what this might look like.
- Stretch for 2 minutes before brushing your teeth at night.
- Go for a 10-minute walk around lunchtime.
- Complete a 45-minute strength training workout.
- Complete a 20-minute high-intensity conditioning workout.
- Do all of the following in a single day.
- Drink a glass of water before beginning your work or other responsibilities for the day.
- Eat one of the following: a source of protein, fruit, or veggies with each meal.
- Plan (not prep) all of your meals for the following day.
- Eat all of the following: a source of protein, fruit, and veggies with each meal.
- Eat a source of protein, fruit, and veggies with every meal, drink 96 ounces of water, have no snacks, plus meal-prep and meal-plan for the following day.
- Before getting out of bed, spend 30 seconds in a state of gratitude and reflection.
- Meditate for 10 minutes.
- Write a reflective journal entry, draw, play a musical instrument, or engage in anything similarly creative.
- Spend 20+ minutes in nature, relaxing, reading, or doing anything that doesn’t involve electronics.
- All of the above, including both a morning and evening meditation plus complete a night routine conducive to a full 8 hours of sleep.
This is just a sample, and the scale can and should be adapted to whatever makes the most sense for you, personally. You can even have more or fewer “slots on the dial” if that’s what you desire. You have complete autonomy to come up with what works best for you.
Why is this so helpful?
Using this dial system will help you practice cultivating the “Always Something” mindset. This is what will lead to you actually achieving and sustaining your goals. Personally, I feel that even though the notion, “Be 1% better every day,” is a little bit cliched, there is some truth to it.
In the long run, it’s much better to have a week where you turned the dial to a 2/5 for all seven days than to have a week with three days that were a 5/5 and four that were a 0/5 or even a -1/5. This can be a difficult mental shift to make, especially for those of us who were lifelong athletes, as we’re often conditioned to think things like, “If I’m going to do something, I’m going to give it my all. If not, why bother doing it?” That makes complete sense when it comes to putting everything on the line during a big game, but nutrition goals don’t work that way. Those “games” are won with consistent, repeatable efforts that don’t drain you, not running yourself into the ground like you would in the last minute of a championship game.
So, start practicing this today! Write out your dials and make the shift to “Always Something.”
Before you go, I’d love to hear from you! Let me know, what do your dials look like? Send them to me even if you’ve never tried this before!