All or nothing

All or nothing. Go big, or go home.

There are often changes we’d like to make in our lives, but we don’t. We may feel motivated in the beginning to make sweeping changes, only to find they quickly fall away.

It’s easy to move into feeling like a failure, or repeating self-critical thoughts, believing we lack self-discipline or the ability to achieve our goal. This is not helpful, and only moves us farther away from our goal.

Recently, while cleaning off my bookshelves, I chuckled as I removed many long-forgotten self-improvement books. I smiled as I remembered the passion I felt about the latest and greatest miracle diet, or a way to a better me, when I bought them.

Many of them were quick to gather dust, as what was suggested in these "tombs" of wisdom, and what I expected of myself, became impossible.

The negative self-talk did nothing to motivate me, and only made me feel miserable and cynical about my ability to accomplish my goals.

I used to feel a pang of failure and guilt when I looked at them, a reminder of what I saw as my personal failure. But, no more, as I’ve learned some secrets to healthy change:

  • small things add up.

It’s easy to fall into the self-defeating practice of all or nothing, of guilt and self-criticism. But what’s easier and sets us up for greater success is starting small, and allowing the sum of our efforts to add up to positive change.

Learning to celebrate each small change we make lays down a more solid foundation than self-criticism, or an all-or-nothing mentality, ever will.

As a mindfulness teacher, I encourage my students to build up their ability to engage with the practices, to celebrate when they take the time, instead of beating themselves up when they forget.

Self-compassion and positive self-talk are much more motivating than negative, which erodes our belief in our ability to grow and make positive change.

A friend recently created a July group challenge, inviting people to join and incorporate a positive change in their lives for the month. Having grown a bit sedentary during the pandemic, I chose exercise.

Initially, I found myself falling into the old-habit of setting the bar too high, seeing myself making ambitious changes to my activity level.

Then, I remembered: start small and celebrate my success.

I’d love to report that I’ve been strapping on my runners and really giving my body a good workout, but I haven’t. I forgot to make a plan.

Making a plan is important, and learning to adapt that plan to fit our lifestyle, when it doesn’t work, supports success. Pre-determining a plan of action, and clearly establishing our goal and commitment to ourselves is important to success.

I’ve recommitted. I’ve made a plan and even a back-up plan. I need a back-up plan when it comes to exercise and weather, because I’m a bit of a princess when it comes to the cold and the rain.

I don’t like walking in the rain, and often suggest I’m made of sugar, because I feel I might melt if I get wet.

Making positive change happens one-step-at-a time. It happens when we make a plan and learn to celebrate our successes, no matter how small they may be.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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