The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined
Finally, after much procrastination, I follow up on my previous post, The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Defined. Hit that link if you need some backdrop!
So where last we left off I was to go quietly to the top of a mountain and meditate on what perceived benefits I gain from living my life with no balance. Did not quite get to the mountain, as end-of-school-year events abounded, but dammit, I made a commitment to follow through on this, so I’m following through! I just re-read back through that post myself, and methinks I need the aid of a therapist to truly work through some of these issues, but what the hell, here we go. In no particular order, here are some thoughts on why I continue to live the all-or-nothing lifestyle:
1. The first thought that jumped into my mind as I considered the gains of the all-or-nothing lifestyle is the exhilaration I feel when I am in my “all” state. Easiest example of this is diet and exercise, and I’m sure everyone can relate to that feeling, when you just had a banner day: ate healthfully, avoided temptation, and managed a strenuous workout. It’s such an intense feeling of pride, and it definitely falls into the “plus” column of my current behavior.
2. The next thought that came almost as quickly to my mind is, for the most part, this mindset allows me to set low expectations for myself, and by low expectations I mean almost no expectations. Prime example of this concept relates, once again, back to fitness, and this is the God’s honest truth: every time I fall off the fitness wagon, the thought that motivates me the most in getting back on is the idea that I only have to do a little each day. If that is seriously motivating, then its no wonder why I habitually fall off the fitness wagon: I get to the point where exercise takes real time and real effort, so all I have to do is give up, then I can start over at square one. This thought process may make sense to no one in this universe but me, and it’s actually embarrassing to admit, but it’s true, and it’s been a perpetual cycle for me for as long as I can remember.
As I consider it, this mindset is not exclusive to the fitness arena. If I have been criticized for the way I perform a task, my default is “then you do it.” Obviously there is some pride thrown in there, but really, isn’t just the all or nothing thinking at work? If I can’t do a job the best, then I’ll leave it for someone else to do. The gain in this case is, well, not having to do whatever task it is! I have been mocked often (and rightfully so) for my lack of navigational sense (I truly don’t know how I left the house before the GPS was invented). As a result, I make zero effort to cultivate this skill. If I am with someone who knows better (and, at this point, a 3-year old toddler would count as one who knows better), I leave all directional decisions up to him or her.
3. Maybe this point should be first, and God knows I have no concrete evidence of this, but this behavior seems ingrained. There have been numerous tales of my excitable personality from my youth (I was about 6 years old when I was asked to put my tongue on the table so that it would stop talking, and I did it ) that lead me to conclude I have been an “all in” person forever, so it would follow that the benefit to the current behavior is that it is easy, it is what I’m used to doing, and it’s easier to go with the existing groove in the wood than to make a new groove.
4. There is certainly an ego component to this behavior. If I’m in the “all” state, then I’m full of pride (see point #1). If I’m in the “nothing” state, then it’s ego in reverse: if I can’t play my way, then I’m picking up my ball and going home. Just writing this very post is unnatural, as I’m venturing into mental territory that is entirely new to me, so my instincts are screaming to back away from this issue, that since I don’t know what I’m talking about, I should leave the topic alone. Luckily, the idea of leaving that last post unfinished is more distasteful to me than risking sounding foolish, or this post would never get finished.
5. I suppose that there is some entertainment value to this behavior, and I do enjoy giving people entertainment. You will only see me dancing at an event when I am all over the dance floor, I won’t be the one half-heartedly shuffling back and forth. If I’m not doing it for entertainment, then I won’t do it at all. Conversely, when I am not good at something, I am loudly and boisterously regaling people of how terrible I am at a given task. So either way, I am enjoying notoriety.
So there you have it. I have to say it: this post was the mental equivalent to racing that 5K a few weeks ago, and I’m sure there is more digging to be done. For anyone that can relate to this mindset, I’d love to hear from you: what are some gains that you experience? What have I missed? I’m guessing that if I understood the motivation than I would be better equipped to change the behavior. Let me know what you think!
For sure, hitting publish on this albatross of a post is a miracle!