All or Nothing Thinking
Thinking errors are plentiful in the human condition and they lead us into patterns of behavior that cause us emotional pain and in some cases can be quite debilitating. As shown previously in this blog “shouldy” thinking is a common error. Another like it is, All or Nothing Thinking, which is derived from perfectionism, it is also known as polarized thinking or black and white thinking.
All or nothing thinking is a particularly egregious thinking error. It is similar to perfectionism, but takes a negative slant with the following thought pattern. “If I didn’t do it perfectly I am a failure.” Or “If I can’t be perfect I won’t even start it.” The first aspect of this was probably inculcated into us at a very early age by our parents. If we came home with an A minus or a B+, (or God forbid a C) they might have pushed us with “Why didn’t you get an A?” Another common story I have heard is that the youngster cleaned the house and mom came home and gave it the white glove treatment and found dust on an uncleaned area. “So you call this clean???!!” These types of responses elicit a feeling of failure in the child or adolescent. To be fair, the parent was trying to spur the child onto bigger and better results, but often the net result is perfectionist thinking is inculcated into us. We feel like a failure and the “not good enough” program starts.
This thinking was meant to push us toward excellence, however the net effect is that it inculcates a feeling of being “less than.” We ought to try our best, and push ourselves for excellence. As the Apostle Paul stated “Be excellent in all that you do.” However, when we come up short we need to be able to take pride in the accomplishment and derive learnings from where we missed the mark. If we allow ourselves to wallow in self pity and feelings of failure we will most probably miss the opportunity to succeed.
Consider for example the 2016 Superbowl and the N.E. Patriots. They absolutely blew the first half and were down 21-3. Negative All or Nothing thinking would have had them shrinking away and just closing up shop and going home. However, winners make adjustments. The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers used to say, “we didn’t get beat, we just ran out of time.”In the movie Star Wars Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker is dejected after not being able to lift his Space fighter out of the swamp. And the Jedi Master Yoda sates, “Do or do not. there is no try!” The best hitters in Baseball hit 300. That means that they make an out Seventy Percent of the time. Seven times out of ten they are losers. Think about that for a second. They failed. But their mindset is not one of failure, they come right back and aggressively engage their next opportunity.
Requiring perfection before even attempting an endeavor will engender a life where one is idle, and misses out on much that is good and worthwhile. The value of experiences is lost when one demands perfection before mastery is even achieved. We might think people will make fun of us or we will look foolish for even trying.
We need to be on the lookout for this in our daily lives. DO try your best. Aim for the sun and you will at least hit the moon. And when you have failed pick yourself up and dust yourself off and continue to march. No one is perfect. Well, we did have One perfect guy like 2000 years ago and we wound up nailing Him to a tree. The rest of us have all been falling short of the mark. If you are requiring perfection from yourself you are being too hard on yourself and not giving yourself the opportunities to succeed and just enjoy life. Get rid of this thinking pattern in your mindset and start accumulating successes in life.