How To Put A Stop To “All or Nothing” Thinking

It’s tempting to see the world in black and white, but there are drawbacks to ignoring those gray areas. If you’re stuck in the habit of all or nothing thinking, don´t worry, there are some easy ways to break out of that yes-no mentality.

When you forget to pick up the dry cleaning, do you ever pass it off being detracted by deadlines at work? Then, when your neighbors neglect to return the ladder they borrowed, do you figure they´re just being inconsiderate?

Evolution conditions us to take shortcuts to defend ourselves quickly from threats. Unfortunately, that also means we may tend to overlook important facts and quickly jump to the wrong conclusions.

Let´s take a look at some of the reasons we fall in to the trap of  all or nothing thinking:

To help you feel safe. Absolutism is limiting. 

It makes you avoid the people and events that you consider problematic. Let´s face it…absolutism is limiting. Instead of telling yourself you´re no good at something, think about some activity you´ve always wanted to do but haven´t done yet…

For example, sign up for that German night-class instead of telling yourself you’re no good at foreign languages. you won´t know until you try and, besides, chances are you´ll have fun doing it!

To ease your anxieties.

Everytime you feel anxious or afraid, you use all or nothing thinking to help reduce your fears. Your confidence will soar as you master simple plumbing jobs or learn to speak more assertively to your coworkers.

To justify why things keep going wrong in your relationships.

When things don´t go right in our relationships we often use all or nothing thinking to rationalize why they aren´t. Striving to have a balanced view of your loved ones helps you to appreciate them for who they are. We all have strengths and weaknesses. More realistic thinking also helps you to support each other’s personal growth.

Absolutes are polarizing. A more understanding and forgiving attitude will help you get along better with others.

To manage uncertainty. 

Absolute thinking is often driven by the need for security. When you accept that many details in life are beyond your control, you’ll be able to relax and become more resilient.

The best thing about flexible thinking is that it generates more joy and peace. Doing away with your black and white thinking will lead to you becoming more aware of the beauty around you and help you in having more faith in your own abilities.

How to put a stop to all or nothing thinking

Try these strategies for keeping that “all or nothing” thinking in check: 

Question You Assumptions

Examine your mental shortcuts. It’s probably okay to avoid shellfish if it always makes you sick. On the other hand, you may want to practice asking for a raise instead of assuming that your boss will reject you.

Hone Your Empathy Skills

Increasing our compassion is a powerful antidote to absolutism. Be more gentle with yourself and others. Allow for errors and focus on solutions rather than holding grudges.

Beware of Exaggerations

If you feel like every sore throat means you have the flu, consider more common explanations. If you think that nothing will ever live up to your last vacation destination, remember the mosquitos. Avoiding exaggerations helps you live more in reality.

Watch The Words You Use

Our words influence our emotions. Avoid using absolute words such as “always” and “never.” Speak more precisely when you catch yourself saying that it always rains on weekends or your kids never clean their rooms.

Mix Up Your Routine

Shake things up by changing your routine. Prove to yourself that you can handle working different hours or eating more whole grains.

Be Flexible

Take sensible risks. Go along with other’s suggestions instead of insisting on having things your own way. Use a different route for driving to the beach or be open to someone else’s recommendation for the next selection for your book club. You’ll soon start to notice more options and alternatives throughout your daily life.

Take A Look At Your Past

Looking back at your past makes it easier to see the flaws in all or nothing thinking. Notice how your beliefs have changed over the years. Chances are you’ve pretty much forgotten about someone you once had a serious crush on.

The comfort of clinging to absolutes comes at a high price. Adjust your way of thinking and you´ll not only begin seeing the world more clearly, you´ll enjoy a much fuller life.


About the Author Jan Marie Mueller

Jan Marie Mueller is founder of the inspirational blog ThinkBrilliantly and The Brilliance Community, a free Facebook group dedicated to empowering women to let their inner brilliance shine! Her mission is to help women everywhere shift the way they think about themselves, their world and those around them so they have the confidence to do, be and have what they want most in life!

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