Why “All or Nothing” Always Leads to “Nothing”…And How to Change Your Approach to Start Seeing Better Results

Are you an “all or nothing” type of person when it comes to your health and fitness? If so, it’s time to rethink that approach.

The problem: this type of thinking puts you in a corner. 

It is impossible to change all of the habits that need changing right away. You can make a lot of changes for the short term, but you can only make a few changes at a time that will stick.

So here is how things usually go in the “all or nothing” approach:

1) Get excited

2) Get results

3) Get overwhelmed

4) Lose results

5) Give up

And giving up is not the worst thing that happens. Because when you get to the point where you are overwhelmed and not seeing results, you don’t just stop all the good things you were trying to do. You go “all in” on your bad habits. 

Then you start blaming yourself, blaming others, and thinking, “Who cares? Nothing works anyway!” This then leads to undoing the progress you have made plus making things worse.

So if “all or nothing” doesn’t work, what does?

The "More or Less" Approach


I like to recommend the “more or less” approach. The point here is that sometimes you can do more to reach a goal. You have the time and the energy to focus on a goal and you can do a lot!

But there are also times that you have to do less. Work, family, or life get in the way and you have to reassess your approach.

In doing this, the alternative to doing a lot is not doing nothing. It is just doing less for a time. And that may mean that you are not seeing the results you want...but it may also mean that you are maintaining the progress you have made.

And maintaining, while not as exciting as achieving results, is way more important. If you can master the art of maintaining, you will have discovered the little known secret to success. It’s the ability to adapt to your situation and keep your goal in sight even when you don't feel like you are making progress.

How to Adapt


The key to the “more or less” approach is adapting to what life gives you. So let’s look at this from two perspectives, actions and priorities:

1) Adapting your actions 

When things get busy, there is nothing wrong with adjusting your plan. Maybe you can’t work out as many days per week or as long. Maybe you have to eat out more and just need to find good options for yourself.

The point is that you make adjustments, but you don’t stop. You don’t let anything in your life stop you from keeping your health in focus. It may be a smaller focus, but a focus nonetheless.

2) Rethinking your priorities

Perhaps a more powerful way to adapt is to rethink your priorities. You (like me and everyone else) have certain things that tend to always push themselves to the top of your “priority” list, without your consent.

We all like to say that health is our priority, but if you look at your calendar and your credit card statement, those might tell a different story.

So, next time your health is starting to slip down the priority list, take a deep look at what you are putting ahead of it and ask yourself if it is really worth it. Is anything really worth losing your health over? 

In this way, you may be able to adapt your priorities to KEEP health as the focus, while making sure other important things are getting done too.

The hard part with the “more or less” approach is that it takes patience and persistence. It takes belief in yourself that you will eventually reach your goal, even if it is not tomorrow.

But the more you accept the fact that the “all or nothing” approach will never lead to the results you are looking for, the easier it will be to start taking steps towards real and lasting change.

Making the Switch


The switch from “all or nothing” to “more or less” is not always an easy one, but that is where having someone to support you can have a huge impact.

Take exercise as an example.

If you decide to start exercising again and jump into working out 4-5 times per week, you are going to feel great in no time.

But then, life will happen, and you will miss a day (or three). All of a sudden, you haven’t worked out in two weeks and you stop trying altogether.

However, if you decide to work with a coach, you may see them 2-3 times per week and then plan on training 1-2 times on your own.

You start out strong, but then life happens.

The difference here is that you probably will start missing your 1-2 days on your own...but those sessions with your coach? You won't let them down!

This can be the difference between success and failure for the “all or nothing” person, because it helps you keep some activity even if it’s not as much as you had hoped!

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Too many people get stuck in the “all or nothing” mindset, which inevitably leads to failure.

Not only does this keep you from reaching your goals, but it actually results in you ending up further from your goals because of the negative feeling you have when you can’t keep going.

The alternative to this is the “more or less” approach, which focuses on what you can do to keep moving toward your goal, rather than how much.

To help support this mindset, you can either work to adapt your actions to fit your life situation, or you can change your perspective on your life situation to keep health a top priority.

Either way, you end up with health as a focus.

As you start to make the switch, you may find that you need help, and that is where you can really benefit from having a coach.

They will help keep you accountable to your health and to your goals, and will show you what you CAN do to keep making progress, even if it is different than your original plan.

Mint Condition Fitness is the leading personal training studio in Los Gatos for men and women 45+ to take control of their fitness and fully enjoy the life they have built.