How to break out of all or nothing thinking

posted in: Inquiry | 0

Many times, even without recognizing it, we fall into the trap of all or nothing thinking. We have a not so pleasant thought, and then another, and then those thoughts start to avalanche and all of sudden there are simply no other options other than the stark black and white ones that limit our ability to make decisions, leave us mentally and emotionally exhausted, and keep us from experiencing the richness of life. For some, this can be a daily struggle but it doesn’t have to be. By learning about how all or nothing thinking harms you, you can learn how to better manage it.

All or nothing thinking harms us by:
• Taking away nuance which is the spice of life
• Blocking our creativity and curiosity
• Causing needless anxiety and stress
• Limiting our opportunities for personal professional growth

Nuance is the spice of life
Noticing the nuances of life is like appreciating how spices blend together to bring out the flavor in pumpkin pie. By clinging to black and white reasoning, without even trying to look at different options, you’ve now reduced your life experiences to tasteless cardboard facsimiles. You’re taking in food but it looks like mush and tastes even worse. Try instead to think of choices and options like items on a buffet; they’re all infused with flavor and texture and when you blend some of them together, you can get something pretty tasty. You may not get to eat your favorite item but at least you’ll start noticing other choices which will break you out of your current mode of thinking.

Break out of blocked creativity by staying curious
Falling into the trap of all or nothing thinking puts a lid on your creativity and curiosity. And while you may not be able to come up with a creative way to solve an issue or approach a problem, staying curious can be the key to keeping an open mind, even if it’s only so you can see someone else’s point of view. Chelsea Dinsmore, the Chief Inspiration Officer of Live Your Legend has a saying, which is, Curiosity Cultivates Creativity (you can read about how she used this to handle an incredible tragedy here By being curios about your situation, you can slowly let go of your rigid thoughts and unblock yourself from making true progress.

Reduce needless anxiety and stress
One of the most exhausting parts about having an all or nothing approach to something is that it can be needlessly exhausting. Because viewing things in black and white removes nuance and also blocks your curiosity, you may end up feeling trapped, stuck, or defeated, all of which ratchet up your anxiety and can lead to prolonged stress. This needless suffering usually only serves to amplify our current feelings which makes you have more negative thoughts. Surprisingly, a way to start reducing those angsty pesky stressful feelings is to boil down all your anxiety to one core issue and then try to become curious about the nuances of how you can re-think that issue.

Enjoy unlimited growth opportunities
Now more than ever, people are taking unconventional and ingenious approaches to solving problems and are ultimately changing the world we live in each and every day. This means that your ability to grow – both personally and professionally – is only limited by your own thoughts, actions, and imagination. By staying blind to where and when you fall into the trap of all or nothing thinking, you are unwittingly sabotaging your chances for growth. By stepping away from absolutes and toward a more open and curious mindset you can help side step self-sabotage and experience more success and progress in your life and at work.

Learning to recognize how all or nothing thinking is working in your life is an ongoing process of looking within, not judging yourself, and being open to gentle shifts in perspective. In order to help you learn to let go of black and white thinking, I’ve created a tip sheet that gives you a three step process that can help you halt those thoughts and instantly move in a new, more positive direction.