Last night in my support group meeting we started talking about making changes for our health. A few ladies were struggling with trying to lose some more weight after being out from surgery a few years. They all said there was a list of things they knew that needed to be changed to get back on track.
I suggested writing a list of the top 5 or 10 things they wanted to change (i.e.: drink more water, eat more protein, count calories, exercise more, keep a journal, cut out extra carbs, etc.). Then rather than tackling the entire list at once, I suggested they take 1 or 2 items and focus all their energies on those couple things for 2 or 3 weeks. Then once those small tasks became habit, to work on the next 1 or 2 things on the list and so on. Making small changes over time to fully engrain those changes into your routines and habits.
This is an approach I’ve used for myself and have seen suggested many, many times from professional counselors and organizers. Work on small tasks one at a time and master each one… then move on to the next thing on the list while keeping the previous habits in place. It works for me. And it works for many.
But apparently that approach doesn’t work for everyone. Two of the ladies last night said they HAD to do the entire list all at once. It was all or nothing. If they weren’t working on every single aspect that needed to be changed, then what was the point?
I guess if that works for you, that's fine. But I tend to think it’s a dangerous position to put yourself into. It goes back to the problem of perfectionism. Sometimes if you have to achieve something with utter perfection, you are paralyzed and can’t do anything at all.
And what if you fall off the wagon on one part of the list… does that mean that the rest of the list gets thrown out the window too? What if you slip up and eat a cookie mid-morning – will that discourage you so much that the rest of the day is scrapped and you binge on junk food and skip your vitamins and don’t bother with drinking water and since your ate so badly, why bother exercising? Can you fail on one task while still keeping the others in place?
I dunno – it just seems like a dangerous way to make changes. All or nothing, in my mind, only leads to failure in the long run.