What is All or Nothing Thinking?
All or nothing thing – It’s a trap! It is an unhealthy thinking pattern that we all engage in, it is our brain’s way of simplifying things. How we think drives our action and how we feel. Healthy thinking patterns only come when we can recognize some of the negative thinking patterns that we are having.
This is the most common one that I see in my coaching -All or nothing thinking. It is seeing something or even someone as all good or all bad. Right. Our mind engages in this type of thinking because it simplifies things so much for the brain, it narrows it down so there’s only two choices.
So our brain is just doing its job to simplify the inputs that it’s receiving. To recognize all or nothing thinking you want to look for phrases with words like “always” or “never”. Those types of words just simplify it into I’m either all in or I’m all off.
“I always say the wrong thing”.
Think about that, do you always saying the wrong thing? You might say the wrong thing often, but do you always say the wrong thing. And all of us do at some point or another or someone that says I can’t express my feelings. That’s a great example of I either can, or I can not, I can either express my feelings or I can’t express my feelings.
“I’m not capable of loving”.
That is a great example of all or nothing thinking I’m not capable of it, or I’m capable. See how there’s only two options in all of these examples. The way that you combat all or nothing thinking is by realizing that there’s more than two options. There are a whole spectrum of options that lie inbetween “I’m capable” and “I’m incapable”.
All or Nothing thinking gives us such narrow focus and the inability to see that there are other alternatives in a situation or that there may be other alternatives or solutions to a problem.
When you’re thinking an all or nothing terms, you really split your view into extremes. Everything you experience is divided into black or white terms. And this leaves no room for the gray area. We all know that there’s plenty of gray areas. Right. What you want to strive for is more balanced thinking.
What’s Really True?
Instead of these extremes, one of the powerful, powerful questions that I like to ask when I can identify all or nothing thinking is this “what’s really true?” Isn’t that powerful?
That powerful question of “what’s really true?” can help you identify truth and dispel that all or nothing thinking. When we take a balanced approach to our thinking, we realize that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
One really powerful strategy that you can use is replacing some of your negative or defeating thoughts with more realistic ones. That’s one way that you can really find middle ground instead of those two extremes.
The ABC’s of Thinking
The powerful ABCs of thinking will help you break free of all or nothing thinking. When you find yourself engaging in unhealthy thinking patterns, you want to separate them into three things, A, B and C. Is it accurate? Is it balanced? And is it complete.
ABC Accurate, Balanced and Complete.
Take a really good look at your thoughts. That’s right, you’re going to examine the thoughts that you are having and recognize how all or nothing thinking is showing up in your thought patterns.
Asking yourself these three things, the ABCs of healthy thinking, is such a simple way to move past this trap.
Is it Accurate?
I’m either on the bandwagon or I’ve dropped off the bandwagon. Well, there’s probably a choice in between there and chances are, there’s several choices in between there. So is that accurate?
And that’s a simple question that you can ask yourself, is that accurate?
Is it Balanced?
The next thing is, is it balanced? And this was a key component to self-compassion as well. Thinking about the balance and in self-compassion we talked about it with emotions, being balanced in our emotions, feeling it and yet not over-exaggerating it. And that’s what we want to do with our thoughts as well.
Is it Complete?
Take a look at the current thought and make sure to not undervalue it and don’t overvalued. It helps to keep a really balanced approach to your thoughts.
Knowing that all our thought may not be complete, especially about certain situations or difficult situations will help us move to healthier thinking.
We simply may not have all the facts. We may not know all of what’s really going on. A powerful question to ask is, “is this a complete view of this situation?” Usually the answer is No. Because we only know our side of the story. We only know our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors are, and we simply don’t know what other people are thinking about that situation. Very rarely or our thoughts complete.
Write down whatever you were thinking, and recognize thatthis thought is an all or nothing thought. Write it down then you get to evaluate and choose. Then you have two options:
You can believe the thought and say, “I’m just going to believe this not serving me, and that’s totally a choice that you have”. And that’s usually the automatic choice that we don’t even think about, it’s the automatic response.
Or you can come up with different options to counteract the all or nothing thinking. That’s where those ABCs of healthy thinking. What’s more accurate, what’s more balanced, what’s more complete? And then you can come up with options to counteract the all or nothing thinking. So an example of this would be let’s take one of our earlier examples.
Then I share powerful questions that you can ask yourself in order to help you achieve more accurate, balanced and complete thinking. We examine all of these components of healthy thinking so you can get started right now!
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