August 7

The All or Nothing Approach: A Form of Self Sabotaging Behaviour


Are you guilty of the ‘All or Nothing’ approach? If so, you are not alone. So many of us try this approach and when it fails, we blame ourselves. “If only I had been more motivated” & “if only I could be more disciplined” are some of the many thoughts that creep into our minds. “I’ll just try it again and this time I’ll get it right”.

What if I told you that the ‘All or Nothing’ approach, or the ‘feck it’ approach as I like to call it, is a form of self-sabotaging behaviour?

What if I followed that up with telling you that it’s not your fault, and more motivation or discipline is not the answer?

Does this self-sabotaging behaviour sound familiar? You decide you need to lose a little weight and decide that the quickest way to make this happen is to use the ‘All’ approach. You’re going to exercise for an hour every day and going to cut out all the food that you perceive as ‘bad”, saying goodbye to carbs, chocolate, a glass of wine.

You start motivated and excited about what you are going to achieve, and how amazing it is going to feel when you lose weight. Midway through the week, the going gets tough. Work is piling up and your responsibilities at home are no easier, and you’re feeling a bit tired and overwhelmed.

The nothing approach or the ‘feck it’ approach rears its ugly head…. Not only am I going to have some chocolate, but I am going to eat the whole jumbo bar! I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I have done this.

This is where you start to beat yourself up & start comparing yourself to others you see in your life or on social media (just a little reminder that this comparison is another form of self-sabotaging behaviour but that’s for another day). The story in your head goes… I’m not good enough, everyone else is able to stick to their diet if only I looked like that person. the cycle begins. Rinsing and repeating for years and years of your life.

We all know that this strategy does not work. However, we go back to it time and time again, hoping for a different outcome. The reason for this is that we think we are the reason that this has failed. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

The reason you fail is the system doesn’t work. The flip side of the ‘all’ approach is the ‘nothing’ (or ‘feck it’) approach. After failing miserably at the ‘all’ approach, because it is unsustainable, you rebound to the ‘nothing’ approach. This is where you decide to see as the ‘all’ approach didn’t work you decide to do anything – I am going to eat whatever I want; I am not going to exercise at all.

Honestly, it has taken me years living in the ‘all’ or ‘feck it’ approach to finding a level of balance in all areas of my life. There is still work to be done to find that elusive balances but my focus is on being better than yesterday. Each small change, each lesson learnt, each new habit or more consistent habit is creating the life I want to be living. We all want success with all our goals.

Here are some tips to help you overcome this form of self-sabotaging behaviour:

Do you know your ‘why’?

You need to have a very clear understanding of why you want to achieve a goal. Not just at the high level why, but uncovering the true underlying motivation factor. Once you understand the ‘true why’, it will drive you forward.

Change the language are you using to describe your situation

How much of this sounds familiar? I am not allowed any chocolate, I am cutting out all carbs, I’m having to exercise every day, I must eat salad. Look at the language you use. This is a very childlike language and leaves you without any sense of being in charge or control. What if you changed the wording to, I choose to, I want to, I get to? These are much more empowering words.

Words can literally change your brain, according to Andrew Newberg M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman. As per their book ‘Words Can Change Your Brain’ they write; a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress. Read more about this concept here.

Focus on what you want to add to life rather than what you want to lose

Another form of self-sabotaging behaviour is putting all our goals in the form of a negative. I want to lose, I want to stop, I don’t want to.

Change this language around to what you do want. I want to be, I want to start. The more positive habits you add the less time you have for what you perceive as negative habits.


Commit to being 1% better each day. Commit to doing one thing differently today that is more aligned to the values you want to live and the goals you want to achieve. Then tomorrow do the same thing, and the next day the same.


Sounds boring right? In the ‘instant gratification’ world that we are living in, most of us don’t have the patience to wait for the changes we make to have an impact.  With a more balanced approach, the change will not happen overnight, but you will be able to sustain the change that you have made for a prolonged period of time.

Have the patience to delay gratification and you will see consistent & sustainable change over time.

Remember, each day, each minute is a new start

Maybe yesterday didn’t go according to plan. However, if today you held yourself to more sustainable goals it could be a whole different day.

Your goals need to be ecological

We all have these great notions on the first of January that we are going to commit hours each week to our new goals. The first question to ask yourself is where is this time coming from?

You are already suffering time famine, so how are you going to create more time for these goals. What do you have to give up? And are you willing to give ‘it’ up?

Maybe it’s time to admit that the goal cannot be a priority in your life right now due to other commitments. How empowering is it to say I am choosing not to devote time to that activity right now as I want to spend time on something else?

Use these tips to set remove this self-sabotaging behaviour from your life and set yourself up for success on any goals you set for


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