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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!


Today’s Miracle:

For sure, hitting publish on this albatross of a post is a miracle!





The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Defined

Spoiler Alert #1:  I normally will not write a post until I have some semblance of a solution worked out.  Absolutely not the case with this one, read on at your own risk

Spoiler Alert #2:  I have a lot to say, this will be longer than usual

I’ve spent some time recently contemplating the various ways I am an all-or-nothing gal.  Turns out, there’s almost no way I’m not all or nothing.  In other words, I’m all or nothing about being all or nothing.  I do not have to search far to give you an example, this is how my day went yesterday:

I have a general cleaning routine that has been disrupted by recent life events, and I realized yesterday that I need to clean all the major areas of the house (probably the minor areas too, I just don’t care about them).  So I pick the area I think needs it the most, which is my bathroom, and figure I’d get that knocked out with no problem.  So I go in, gather the rugs to bring to the laundry room, and I realize that the towels probably need to be done too, which of course means the kids’ towels need it as well.  Which leads me to the conclusion that sheets must need to be washed, and now I’m realizing I am starting to grow this project bigger than I originally intended.  Then again, all of these things do need to be done.  So all of that goes downstairs, and I start cleaning the bathroom.  I realize some of the cleaning supplies I need are in the kids’ bathroom, so I go into a cabinet to retrieve them.  To my dismay I uncover a nightmare of things thrown into that cabinet, which knocked over cleaning supplies, which created a huge mess (my reaction to that is for another post).  I clean that up, and now I am significantly behind on a project that I’ve made bigger than I intended in the first place, but I’ve started, so simply stopping this process is inconceivable.  I am back and forth between laundry and the bathroom, now my sheets are done, and I’m thinking I can’t possibly put clean sheets on a bed (with surrounding furniture) that hasn’t been dusted, so out comes the Pledge.  This project takes very little time, and then I make the bed.  I realize at this point my bedroom is all but clean if I just vacuum, but I can’t do that if there are clothes in a basket on the floor, so I quick fold them up and put them away.  Then I vacuum, but really, the carpet doesn’t end at my bedroom, right?  There’s a hallway connected to it, and, connected to that hallway are three other rooms.  Finish that up, feeling good about how the upstairs looks, and then take a look around my downstairs.  I am appalled by the difference.  It’s as if I did nothing at all!  So, guess what happens?  You got it, room by room, the exact same process.

Now, I’m re-reading the paragraph above, and I feel like I am #humblebragging.  Let’s round it out with another story:

It’s the middle of April.  Through a series of events, I have embarked on several adventures that I think will all work towards the same goal of improved fitness.  I have joined Weight Watchers online with my cousin, I have purchased a Fitbit to track my activity, and I am training for an upcoming 5K.  Healthy goals, practical tools, lots of accountability, teamwork and support.  In the first 10 days, I have an absolutely banner week, lost an incredible amount of weight, exercised every single day, and improved my Fitbit stats each day I used it.  I was also pretty early into my self-directed smoking cessation program as well.

Anyway, weigh in day falls on a Thursday (although who am I kidding, I was checking myself at least twice a day every day), which also happened to be my husband’s birthday.  So I happily report the good news to my cousin who is doing this with me, and I let her know that I will be having a “fun” day since it is his birthday.  Which I did.

The next day, a Friday, my husband took off work and we went and got spa treatments and had a nice lunch.  I guess two days of not tracking are okay, right?  And exercise, well, I’ll just get back on it over the weekend.

Except that I didn’t, and the eating continued to devolve.  Points counting is a thing of the past, as is exercise.  Monday rolls around, and this happens to be the biggest trigger day of the week for me to want to smoke.  But there is no way I am backtracking on that progress, so I think that I will give myself one more free-for-all day so that I don’t smoke.  Here’s what a free-for-all day looks like:

First off, I will plan for my favorite food in the world:  a soft pretzel.  Where I like to buy pretzels you save money by buying two.  And while I’m at it, better pick the saltiest ones they’ve got, in case the salt falls off in the bag (which I will wind up eating anyway).  Round that off with a 32 ounce soda.

Once I’ve eaten all of this, is there really a point to stopping?  I might as well go for all my favorite foods, which tend towards crunchy and salty.  Eat them as the mood strikes.

If I’m eating like this, do I really feel like moving at this point?  Let’s just make it a fun day all around, and watch some mindless television.  And so that day continues on, with very little productive to show for it.

So there’s the other side of the all or nothing lifestyle.  Of course, I could paint a much grimmer picture, were I to go back a few years and describe a day in the life of active addiction.

And it’s not just about eating, exercising and cleaning.  Here are some other categories:

Television:  It is a point of pride that I have never missed an episode of Survivor.  My husband will corroborate this story… he did not watch it with me Season one, in fact mocked the concept, and I remind him on a very regular basis of this fact.  There have been something like 28 seasons of this show, and I will watch it no matter what.

Reading:  I am either obsessively reading, or I cannot locate my electronic reader.  Absolutely no middle ground.  I am on the latter side right now, and yet I still go to my book club lunches (they should excommunicate me right about now).

Apparel Shopping:  if I find something I like, I need it in every color.  That or I’m wearing the same pajamas like it is my uniform.  Seriously, I will wait for the dryer before I get changed for the evening.

Organization as it Relates to the Basement:  I am either all about it, and the basement looks like it did last summer after the garage sale, or I abandon it and the basement looks like it does right now (Editorial comment:  I do not live alone in my house, and I REFUSE to take sole responsibility for the state of the basement.  On the other hand, it seems to bother only me, and my choice when I’m on this end of the organizational spectrum is to just avoid it at all costs.  But I digress…)

Free Refills:  If I dine at a restaurant that offers free refills of my favorite beverage in this world (Diet Pepsi)… well, I’m sure I don’t have to finish this sentence!

Don’t Touch My Pitcher:  Last summer I wrote about a plan for improving my fitness by introducing things into my life, rather than taking things away.  Interestingly, these things have managed to hang around for what’s coming up on a year now (if interested, read here).  One of those things was increasing my water intake.  Now, believe me, there are days when I drink none (of course, all or nothing, right?), but most days I am habitual about drinking 10 glasses of water.  The process has evolved to the point that I bought my own pitcher with one of those cages in the middle that I can put lemon and lime in to infuse the water, and I drink it until it is gone, then refill it for the next day.  Great practice, right?  Until another family member attempts to drink from this pitcher, then all hell’s breaking loose.  Because I am selfish and don’t want to share?  Not a chance… because then I can’t keep track of my water intake!

So obviously I could add to these categories ad infinitum (I’m sure it feels like I already have), but I think I’ve made my point.

I am sure that, if you could, you would finish reading this, walk over to me, give me a hug, tell me I am not alone, and that I just need to work towards finding some balance in my life.  And I would sincerely agree with you, but if you looked closely into my eyes, you would see somewhat of a vacant stare.  Not because I’m ignoring your great advice, but because those words truly mean nothing to me.

As in, I get it theoretically, but have no idea how to practically apply the concept to real-life scenarios.  Curiously, I remember having similar thoughts about some of the steps in my 12-step recovery program.

My good friend Lisa over at Sober Identity once posed to me this challenge:  Figure out what you are gaining from holding on to a behavior you wish to change.  Because you ARE gaining something from it, whether you want to admit it or not.  If you can figure it out, you can work to meet this need in more positive ways.

So what is the gain to living my life like this?  To be continued in The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined


 Today’s Miracle:

Who knew I had so much to say on this subject?  Not me! 

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