Podcast Episode 14: Stop All or Nothing Thinking

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All-or-nothing thinking refers to thinking in extremes. It’s one of the most common ways we sabotage ourselves at work and in our lives. In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Where All or Nothing Thinking comes from and why you do it
  • How All or Nothing Thinking causes you to get stuck
  • The cure for All or Nothing Thinking
  • How to question your thinking so you can un-stuck

*The Matrix*’s Red Pill or Blue Pill—Which Is Better?

The Career Refresh Podcast episodes referenced:

The Antidote to Imposter syndrome Episode 6

How to stop negative thinking Episode 11

Perfection and your career Episode 13

Perfectionism, Imposter Syndrome, Negative and all or nothing thinking causes us to develop a negative view of ourselves and others and if you don’t catch these ways of being they can become your default mindset.

Read the Transcript
Hey you,
Welcome back and thanks for joining me this week.

This week I wanted to talk to you about a very common thought error, and that’s all or nothing thinking.
It’s one of the most common ways we sabotage ourselves at work and in in throughout many aspects of our lives.
Psychologically speaking, All of nothing thinking what’s known as a cognitive distortion. There are numerous kinds of cognitive distortions, all-or-nothing thinking is one of the most common.
All or nothing thinking is an assumption you make based on little evidence, or without considering the evidence.
All-or-nothing thinking refers to thinking in extremes.
The more you rely on false evidence to make decisions or to interpret events, the more drama you are going to cause in your life, and the worse you tend to feel.

And because no one wants to feel bad, you want to change or fix the situation quicky, so you take action from this bad feeling place.

Now the problem has snow balled because when you take action from feeling back it’s you are going to show up in your results. And you are stuck in a cycle of ‘proving your bad feelings true giving yourself more false evidence and you remain in All or nothing thinking.
All of nothing is the thinking that things are either good or bad.
Your performance was excellent or your going to be terminated.
If you are not perfect, then you are a failure.
This binary way of thinking does not account for shades of gray, and can be responsible for the negative thought patterns you have of yourself and others.
We all do this.

It shows up in your performance, your internal dialogue, your interactions with others and your results.
Whether it’s work performance, mindset work,  an exercise or diet protocol we think if we are not 100% we are failing.

In the workplace, All or nothing thinking tends to show up around your interaction with others or the evaluation of your own performance.
Any of these sound familiar?

Your day starts off well. You’re liking your job. But then you get an email that annoys you and abruptly you think this place is the worst.

After a long wait, you’ve finally been promoted. But it’s been a month the raise hasn’t hit your bank account yet.
Suddenly you are rehearing all the things you are going to say to HR about the delay. You’ve waited long enough.
Or on a job interview.
During the interview, let’s say the interviewer asks you a question about the gap in your employment.
You weren’t expecting this question and you’re stumped.
You’re caught off-guard by the question and you fumble for words.
You can feel time ticking away and you feel like it’s been an eternity since you’ve answered.
Instead of leveraging the art of the awkward pause, you begin to feel self conscious and begin to ramble because you think the pause makes you look bad.
But You dont give yourself a chance to think.
You pressure your brain to find the right answer but as you are answering you are judging yourself. Comparing yourself.
In the end, you don’t answer the question as well as you would have liked.
If you view this experience through the lens of all-or-nothing thinking, you are likely to discount your performance during the other 98% of the interview.
Or perhaps you’re involved in a group effort, a collaborative project of sorts.
You are listening to others and contributing where you can.
After the meeting you swiftly decide that you didn’t do enough.
You’re not creative or strategic enough.
Why didn’t you get in there more?
You think, maybe you’re not suited for this project.

Or maybe you should find another job.

I used to do this to myself all the time. Meanwhile I have many industry awards for my strategic and creative thinking.
Evidence didn’t matter. It never does with all or nothing. That’s the crux of the issue. I would decide that I didn’t perform at 100% ALL THE TIME, then, I must not be up to par. That’s the nothing.
The nothing side of the all or nothing can result in –if we think we cant have everything we want then we’ll take nothing.
The all side of all or nothing thinking sets an unreasonable expectation on yourself.
You think if you are not 100% perfect in your performance then you might as well be a zero.
That’s the nothing. It’s brain twist because you know you dont want to do NOTHING but you’ve set the bar of perfection so high it’s hard to consistently hit it.
When you default to all or nothing you’ll walk away from an experience and think that your performance was awful and you’ll never find the gems of good in your performance. And you wont learn from your mistakes. It’s hard to learn through the lens of self-criticism and judgement.
All of these thoughts, will feelings like fear, disappointment, self judgement, worthiness, and shame.
I also see all or nothing thinking when people are presenting or public speaking.

Maybe you forget one or two points you wanted to make or your boss asks you a question that you honestly don’t know the answer to.
You decide that because the performance wasn’t 100% perfect then it was NOTHING.
You may even go global on your thoughts and decide that you’ll no longer be up for promotion in the next cycle.
Next up is fears of couch surfing and being homeless.
It is easy to see how that all-or-nothing thinking can lead to a lot of harsh judgments about yourself, lowering your confidence and self-esteem in the process.
I am betting that no one is speaking to you or about you in the same harsh manner you are speaking about yourself.
It’s common for those of us that are planners, perfectionists, or if we are very detailed-oriented to default to All or NOTHING.

We want to give it our all.

We throw ourselves into our work.

Sometimes all or nothing is a helpful, because it can level-up our work.

So check yourself, if your motivates are not about quality control or pure achievement, you’ll want to build a habit of catching your thinking so All or nothing doesn’t become the source of so many of performance problems.
Want to know what I think about all or nothing?
First it’s fear-based thinking.

When we are stuck in All or nothing  we are frozen in fear.
You aren’t able to see solutions because you are coming from fear.
You can’t see alternative ways of reasoning.

When we are in fear we are future tripping about what could happen.

We are thinking about a future event, how we’ll reaction or what we’ll say, and we wonder how it will all turn out.
We don’t trust ourselves to handle the future.
The Second thing I believe about All or Nothing is that it’s the easy way out.
I know, stay with me.
All or nothing is a “safe” way to think. There’s no cognitive dissonance, creative tension, no ambiguity, no need to work your mindset and challenge your thinking.

You want to be perfect. You so want to make the RIGHT decision that you spin on indecision. There is no right or wrong answer. You choose and then you manage your mind.
The human brain loves all or nothing thinking. Because the brain craves certainty, ease and efficiency.
If the brain can quickly decide good bad. Right wrong. All or nothing then It can save energy (by not over thinking) and move on.
The ALL  part of this  thinking requires your ultimate perfection.
In episode 13 of this podcast I talk about perfectionism. I define it as when you think you need to be perfect in order to be accepted, valued, or to succeed.
The Nothing part of the thinking is when you go global.
You think you suck. Everything you do is bad. You are failing at life.

Or you think THEY suck, THEY are bad, and THEY are failing the team.
You are judging your performance, your relationships, and now your parenting skills.
By the way, this type of global all or nothing thinking tends to commence in minutes after the circumstance.
Because you didn’t catch it, it will ramp up over the next few hours or days if you don’t train your brain.
You may even launched into full on imposter syndrome where you discount or diminish obvious evidence of your abilities. You think You’re a fraud and everyone will knows it– if they don’t already.
Perfectionism, Imposter Syndrome, Negative and all or nothing thinking causes us to develop a negative view of ourselves and others and if you don’t catch these ways of being they can become your default mindset.

If this is your default mindset, do you think you’ll be amplifying your strengths? How do you think your performance will be if your internal talk track is crappy all over yourself?
You are evaluating your performance through your distorted lens of crappy thinking.
Any if you are like most anxious achievers, you’ll then work more. Harder. Longer hours. You think you’re failing so you throw more of yourself at the alleged problem. Now comes the burnout.
And your personal and professional relationships may suffer.
It’s easy for those who default to all or nothing thinking to also struggle with depression and anxiety as well.
With all or nothing you can’t see alternatives.
It’s one or the other. Gone are the shades of grey.
And if you find an alternative you only want to go for it if you can know in advance the outcome. Because you don’t want to take a risk.
You want the Matrix’s red pill. You want to know now how it will turn out. Your frozen.
This thinking leaves us with not having to think critically or negotiate what reality we want to create.
If you want to evolve yourself your ideas, grow, and take on new responsibilities, you have to understand that when you have an all or nothing mindset, it’s a fixed mindset.
When you have a fixed mindset you’re never going to be open to considering where you might be wrong. And that is an enormous tragedy.
If you are in all or nothing thinking with such intensity that you can’t see where maybe you are wrong or that your mindset went into absolute thinking and you can’t see where it’s hurting your performance or your career– because you are so tied to being perfect or right then you are missing an opportunity to evolve.
So the next time you have an experience and minutes later you find yourself in negative talk track running lose in your head,
Awareness precedes change. You have to notice the all or nothing before you can change it. So once you notice it, consider these steps
First Find the possibility
One of the antidotes to this thought error  is making an effort to look for possibilities.
To accept that one question was thrown at you during the interview that you didnt know how to answer but that rest of the interview went well
OR that your presentation to the CEO was strong and but I have to follow up on the one question I didnt have an answer
Second challenge yourself with yes and thinking
I did a good job AND I didnt have all the answers.
You can hold space for multiple ideas. Remind yourself that it doesnt have to be all or nothing.
Finding the middle can bring you some peace and calm.
Third You can question your thinking.
When you find yourself in all or nothing thinking, pause and ask yourself, Is it true? Can I prove it? What am I missing? What do I need to learn here?
I want you to know that freedom lies in thinking in possibility, in yes and thinking statements and in questioning your own thinking.
When you release the pressure on yourself, you can think clearly, risks become easier, failure isn’t a judgement. It’s not either or. It’s just one less way it will work.
If you need help with this type of thinking, reach out and let me know. All or nothing thinking, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and how to level up in spite of feeling like a failure is all the stuff that we work on in my coaching program.
It helps to have someone’s help.
You can learn more on my website jillgriffincoaching.com
 Alright my friends. Thanks for joining me this week. Until next time.

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Tune into The Refresh Your Career Podcast Available on all streaming apps. https://jillgriffin.buzzsprout.com/