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Recognize and Overcome All or Nothing Thinking - Wellstyles - Valley Schools

Recognize and Overcome ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking

You’ve set a goal for the new year to meditate every night before you go to bed. You do this every night for the first three weeks until you unexpectedly fall asleep watching a movie on Saturday night. The next day you wake up disappointed and think to yourself, “I didn’t keep my New Year’s goal, I fail at everything.”

By thinking or even saying that statement out loud, you have dismissed all of the nights you actually did meditate. Your mindset inexplicably transitions from achievement to failure. Whereas this may sound a little excessive, many of us tend to get overly discouraged after a single isolated incident. This is an example of “all or nothing” thinking.

How is ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking Harmful?

All or nothing thinking can be very harmful to our thought processes and overall mindset. This type of defaulting to the negative is normal. The worst part about it is that it leads to an inability to see alternatives or to come up with creative solutions. It can also impact our willingness to work towards our goals. If you find yourself using absolute terms, like never or always, that’s the first clue you’ve fallen into this common mental trap. This negative default setting (including negative self-talk) disrupts our attempt to change our behavior and can be detrimental to our self-esteem.

How Do We Rewire This Response?

Being AWARE that it exists is the first step! Below are some quick easy steps to rewire, reframe, and reclaim your positive mindset.

Don’t focus on what you cannot control.
Do understand that setbacks happen and forgive yourself.

Don’t dwell on self-defeating thoughts.
Do list your strengths and daily wins, however small they may seem.

Don’t use absolute terms like “never”, “everyone”, and “always” to describe your situation.
Do find at least one positive factor in each situation.

Stay On Track With Your Goals

The next time you catch yourself in this negative thought process, take a moment to realize that life is not always black and white. Know that life is full of gray areas and we can help provide realistic ways to overcome challenges and stay on track with your goals.

Valley Schools is here to help you stay on your path and encourage your journey to personal wellbeing. Visit our website at to connect with our wellness team.

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