As we head into each new year, we are often tasked with brainstorming New Year’s Resolutions, intentions, and goals for the year ahead. New Year’s Resolutions aren’t an entirely new 21st-century concept. According to First Post, records show that ancient Babylonians may have been the first to set recent years' goals around 4,000 years ago, while the term “New Year’s Resolutions” was first used in a Boston newspaper in 1813.*
While we all have different takes on New Year’s Resolutions, the beginning of each year is a great time to evaluate and reflect on the previous year, turn a page, and set an intention for the year ahead.
If this is something you like to do (or would like to do), I’ve got a PDF download that will guide you through journal prompts to reflect on 2023, set intentions for 2024, and gain clarity on your priorities for 2024.
Some individuals opt for a “word of the year,” others draft a list of goals, and some will aim for an entire life overhaul for the year ahead. Perhaps you don’t set goals at the beginning of the year but have found yourself setting goals throughout the year in different seasons. No matter where one lands on that spectrum, research shows that many people struggle with sticking to the goals they’ve set.
Studies show that 43% of Americans will surrender their New Year’s Resolutions by the end of January, while 23% will drop them by the last week in January.*
While individuals often face many physical barriers when creating sustainable changes that contribute to crushing goals, the mental barriers are often overlooked. One of the main culprits and mental barriers I tend to see when working with clients is the “all-or-nothing” mentality. It is a mental barrier I’ve experienced in my wellness journey.
An all-or-nothing mindset has been defined as thinking only in extremes. Additionally, it is as if only those extremes are presented as true to an individual; there are no gray areas or happy mediums - only success or failure. It is a binary way of thinking that presents 0 or 100, right or wrong, a good or bad day, high or low. You get the idea.
When an individual has this mindset, tracking, seeing, or feeling any wins can be extremely challenging. One thing, one inconvenience, one bad meal, one bad day or imperfect moment, one tripwire or obstacle comes in, and all goes awry. Failure seems fatal; progress is not seen, and you feel defeated and deflated.
As a coach, I see this mostly in my clients' wellness journeys, but all or nothing can creep into any area of life (career or sales goals, decluttering your home, or any other goal you set). However, for this post (and to stay true to my scope of practice as a Wellness Coach), I’ll discuss it primarily regarding a wellness goal.
Imagine this: you have set a goal to “eat clean, hit the gym five times a week, and have family dinner every night of the week.” You have your menu planned, you get the grocery shopping done meal prep, you schedule your workouts, and you have nailed family dinner for three nights in a row! We love to see it.
Suddenly, a work deadline gets moved up, a kid (or fur baby) gets sick, the heating coil in the stove goes out, and you’re sore from your last workout and can’t imagine working out because, ouch!
Now what? Is the rest of the week a wash, and you’ll start back on Monday? Has everything gone to sh*t because it’s not perfect and all where it needs to be? What about the stove? Do you resolve to return to the gym when the soreness goes away, but the work deadline takes precedence by then? Does the kid need to go to the Doctor, or shall we wait it out just to make sure? We don’t have time for family dinner, so let’s eat in the car after work or maybe just at work while we meet this deadline.
Hey - I get it; I’ve been there before. Before becoming an instructor and coach, I was on my wellness journey, just trying to figure it all out - I succumbed to all or nothing all the time. It ruined my progress time and time again.
If you’re thinking, “Whoa, I think that’s me…what can I do?” Don’t worry, I’ve got you.
As a coach, I have experience working with individuals who struggle with this mentality. Full disclosure: if this is something you struggle with, it requires a lot of grace and patience with yourself to take a step back and own it. However, once you’ve owned it, the work isn’t over - to see another perspective, you’ll want (and need) to challenge the mindset each time it creeps up on you. I call this “flipping the script,” and it can be helpful to reframe situations and downward spirals.
Here are some of my top tips for combatting the all-or-nothing mindset:
Redefine failure. Failure does not mean you are a failure; it means you tried. It means you showed up. Pro-Tip: define failure, write it down, or save it somewhere on your phone for quick access.
Failure is not final, and it is not shameful; look for the lesson to anticipate future obstacles.
Speaking of obstacles, turn your obstacles into your opportunities - let them spark curiosity within you. How did I feel when XYZ happened? How can you pivot better next time? When you accept and expect the obstacles, you can begin to think of ways to pivot next time. Have your game plan ready.
Ride the tides. Every journey has highs and lows. You will have days where everything is on point, and you nailed it all! And you will have days where long hours at work or a sick kid takes precedence - ride the tides.
Track your wins. Whether you made it your workout (especially when you didn’t feel like it), when you opted for a walk to flush out the soreness (but still moved your body), when you made a delicious meal AND got to eat with your family, when you did the thing you said you were going to do - track it! Big or small - we count it all. This also contributes to your momentum because you can see your track record adding up. Pro-tip: I keep this list in the Notes App on my phone for quick access (fun fact: I call it my BOOYAH journal, lol). I look at it whenever I feel like slipping up and letting all or nothing get the best of me.
Motivation will get you started.
Momentum will keep you going.
And an all-or-nothing mentality will stop you every time.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The all-or-nothing mindset does not have to stop you from crushing your goals. Set your goals or intentions and build out what it will take from you to overcome those goals. I want to challenge you to go further and not fall prey to an all-or-nothing mentality. The one thing about life that we all know to be true is that “life happens” - what you decide to do with it when it happens is up to you. You can let it stop your progress or teach you to pivot and still see your progress.
Your journey is your journey, and there’s no one like it. You get to define how heavy the setbacks hit you and how satisfying and powerful the comebacks will be.
You got this.
If you’ve got big (or small) goals for 2024 - feel free to share them with us! If there’s anything I can personally do to support you and your goals, don’t hesitate to reach out.
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