The Danger of All-or-Nothing

looking up at a circular staircase

I read a very interesting blog post on a zero-waste site recently regarding failure. More specifically, our tendency to focus on our (perceived) failures instead of celebrating our successes when trying to make changes in our life.

At first glance, adopting a zero-waste lifestyle and learning and incorporating the Alexander Technique into your life may seem like they have absolutely nothing in common.

What they have in common is striving to live in a more conscious way—being attentive to your habits and allowing more of your actions and reactions to involve a degree of choice—as opposed to going through your days on autopilot.

Whether that is choosing to ask for your coffee in a mug as opposed to a to-go cup, when you are staying at the coffee shop and therefore have no need of a to-go cup, or choosing to bend using your hip joints instead of rounding your back and risking your spine when you take a drink at the water fountain—both involve living more in the present moment, being aware of your habits and making a conscious choice.

This is no easy task. It involves changing habits. And if you have ever tried to change a habit, you know it is difficult, but not impossible.

In the blog post I mentioned, the author talks about readers writing in to tell her repeatedly about how they have failed in their attempts at a zero-waste lifestyle because they could not change all the behaviors they wanted to.

The tendency is to focus on what did not go well, instead of what did. They focus on the fact that they created some trash today, not that they created less trash than the day before.

In my teaching practice, I find this as well. I sometimes call this the All-or-Nothing Attitude.

It’s really negative.

And if you want to throw a roadblock in your way of changing your habits, this would be a good one!

It’s important to have a large goal to work towards. A stake in the sand. After all, you need to keep in mind what direction you are headed.

But with the All-or-Nothing Attitude that stake in the sand becomes The Only Goal.

And a sure bet that you are going to fail.

Take the stake in the sand and make some smaller goals that lead towards the stake.

Small enough goals that you could say, “Yeah, I could do that. No sweat.”

In the Alexander Technique, students learn to pause before acting.

Because pausing allows for choice in action and reaction.

Let’s take the example above regarding bending at the waist vs. using your hip joints.

If you think about it, you bend over countless times a day. Whenever you have to lower yourself in space you bend over. Even the act of sitting down involves bending.

Learning to pause before bending would be a stake in the sand.

Now imagine a goal leading towards that stake in the sand that is small enough you could say, “Yeah, I could do that. No sweat.”

For you, it might be whenever you are in front of a sink. For me, that might be too big a goal. Instead, it might be whenever I spit out my toothpaste.

For me, it might be whenever I am going to pick up something off the floor. For you, that might be too big a goal. Instead, it might be whenever you pick up or replace the dog dish on the floor.

The goal you set isn’t so important, what is important is that 1) it leads toward the larger goal—the stake in the sand—and 2) it is small enough that you could say, “Yeah, I could do that. No sweat.”

Because if it is, you are more likely to be successful.

And then you will feel good and be more motivated to continue moving toward that larger goal.

Here’s to celebrating our successes no matter how small!

Image by Joe from Pixabay 

2 comments… add one

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  • Harry May 22, 2018, 11:37 am

    Hi, Lauren! I really like this blog! I’m taking speaking voice lessons, and ironically one instruction is to not try too hard! Hmmm…there seems to be a parallel here!!
    Thanks, and Happy Summer!!

    • Lauren Hill May 30, 2018, 4:00 pm

      Hi Harry. Sounds like you found an intelligent voice coach. Smarter not harder is my motto!


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