Most, if not all, of my clients often fall into the trap of ‘all or nothing’ thinking. Oftentimes we think we have to be perfect in order to make the changes we wish to see. We tell ourselves, “Today wasn’t perfect, so I’ll start tomorrow and be perfect.” But that day will never come. Sound familiar? Instead, opt for a more effective strategy of taking it one day at a time and doing the best we can each day.
When we tell ourselves we’ll start a habit on January 1st, we set ourselves up for failure in a few ways. The first is through perfectionism. When we think we have to be perfect, the moment we do something “imperfect” we think we’ve failed and soon return to our old way of doing it. For example, if we say we’ll eat better and then we have a donut, or a drink, or an imbalanced meal, we give up right away.
We also tend to use vague objectives that set us up for failure. If we say we’ll “eat better,” we have no concrete steps to take. As a result, the moment we judge something as “bad,” we determine we’ve failed. If we start with manageable, specific goals, such as eating breakfast every morning, we know what actions to take and are more likely to stick to them.
Another common pitfall is the tendency to overindulge before we start our resolutions. We mistakenly think it may be the last opportunity to enjoy a donut or drink, causing us to overeat instead of enjoying in moderation.
A more effective and sustainable strategy is to approach change with a long term vision. If we step out of the ‘all or nothing’ mindset, we can occasionally indulge and prevent feelings of restriction that eventually lead to binges. If we build healthy habits slowly, they are far more likely to stick.