“All-or-nothing thinking” is filtering your thoughts through a black or white filter. Making everything either white or black, all or nothing. It can seem like a smart, practical, solution to counteract feeling out of control. Yet, it does the opposite, it limits your options and makes you feel worse.
Does All-or-Nothing Thinking Sneak Into Your Thoughts?
Do you create an “I have to” measuring stick?
Be careful when a thought begins with “I have to.” If what follows isn’t a very basic need, you probably are at the start of an all-or-nothing thought. You often take something that is important to you or has great value and place it on a measuring stick. Each day that you fall short, in your mind you’re keeping score. Using these shortcoming as evidence and reconfirming in your thoughts how poorly you are handling the difficulty you face.
Do you run a race of “invisible finish lines?”
You might use all-or-nothing thinking as a finish line to your problem… “If I can finish all the Christmas shopping before December, then I will just be able to relax and enjoy the Christmas Season.” But you never really get to cross your invisible finish line. You are just left running a race on empty for far too long. Leaving you burnt out, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
Three ways to use flexible thinking
Being Flexible with Your Time
Allow yourself to look at the purpose of a task and find a more suitable time to accomplish it. For instance, you have decided having a family meal together is extremely important and a task you use to measure your success as a mother. In your mind, having or failing to have this meal all together sums up your capability. Night after night, dinner doesn’t go well or doesn’t happen at all, leaving you feeling inadequate. A solution to being flexible with your time might mean moving your meal together as a family to breakfast. You might have to juggle things slightly to make it work. It might be only two weekdays mornings, but it gives you the flexibility to feel, even under times of stressful strain in your life that you are doing enough.
Being Flexible with Resources
We all have things each day we are responsible for, but we also have responsibilities that can be bumped or moved around. Adjusting your resources to meet the emotional energy you have each day helps you reframe from feeling burnt out. Working off a weekly to-do list instead of a daily one. Being flexible with your resources is one of the best ways to stop running a race of invisible finish lines, because your allowing flexibility to give you rest stops when you need them.
Being Flexible with Yourself
It is important to be flexible in your thoughts by offering yourself perspective and patience, and focusing on the progress you have made, instead of only keeping track of what you aren’t able to accomplish.
By being flexible with your time, resources, and self you create empowerment and opportunity for you to handle hard, sticky times of uncertainty and emotional overload.