Break the All-or-Nothing Habit: Find Balance in Work and Life

Clients often tell me they want to have balance in work and life, but then struggle with all-or-nothing habits. It’s a pervasive problem, with more than half of them saying they grapple with it. Can you relate to this familiar tug-of-war?

For instance, have you ever let a single bout of overeating derail your commitment to healthy eating a week, or longer? Do you often feel the need to do everything yourself, believing no one else can meet your standards? (Even at home for mundane tasks like loading the dishwasher?! – I might relate to this slightly.😳)

Or how about spending excessive time perfecting a project or avoiding starting altogether because you fear it will never be just right? Or waiting to start planning meals or exercising until work settles down, but it never really does?

Consider the consequences of all-or-nothing habits on work life balance. A drive for perfectionism can have you working longer hours, leaving little room for relaxation or leisure activities. It can lead to burnout, and people may perceive you as controlling. 

Photo by Brett Jordan

On the other hand, doing nothing yields precisely that—nothing. The fear of not meeting expectations may cause you to avoid work altogether, sacrificing career progress for temporary relief. Worse still, inaction often leads to regression, particularly when it comes to crucial aspects like health and personal development. 

But you can break free from this tendency, as many of my clients have discovered. By embracing a balanced approach and setting small-step goals, they’ve achieved significant improvements in both their professional and personal lives.

Do you detect traces of all-or-nothing in your own daily life? If so, congratulations on recognizing it; that’s the crucial first step. Notice how it shows up in various aspects of your life, from your health, to relationships, to your career. 

Breaking free from the habit of all-or-nothing is key to living a more effective life, but it’s easier said than done. So, where do you start? Zoom in on one area of your life, whether it’s personal or professional. Ask yourself: How can I be a bit more flexible here? How can I achieve my goals while allowing room for both progress and imperfection?

And this is key: take baby steps. Seriously, nothing huge. Start by loosening your grip on control. Practice letting go of those things that don’t really need your constant attention. Trust me, it’s liberating.

This will take time but trust me, it’s worth it. By gradually embracing a more relaxed approach, you’ll find yourself on the path to greater fulfillment and well-being.

How to keep consistent with healthy habits when life throws you off track

My dad likes to say that life is what happens when we’re making plans. My clients certainly find this to be true. They want to keep consistent with healthy habits but life always seems to block their best intentions. And the idea of work life balance starts to feel unrealistic.

You know what though? So much of that life is more predictable than we pretend. That is, we know we’ll be disrupted at work. And we’ll sometimes need to work late. We know the weather won’t always “cooperate.” It’s really not a surprise when kids create a mess or need to be picked up from some activity at the last minute. 

So, why not plan for these things?  

The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is thinking there shouldn’t be problems. Planning your calendar while expecting  ideal circumstances sets you up to not keep consistent with healthy habits. It’s one of the biggest reasons I see for people getting stuck in the lose-regain-lose-regain weight cycle. 

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To execute consistently on your plan I recommend having a backup plan. Here are three options to consider as you create yours:

  • If A, then B: This is about alternatives. “If it’s dark when I get home and I don’t feel safe going for my jog, I’ll ride my stationary bike.” Or, “ If I work late and cooking dinner feels like a drag, I’ll grab a Chipotle Wholesome Bowl on the way home.” 
  • Minimum standard: Setting a baseline minimum prevents all-or-nothing from taking over, particularly when you have an extended situation that makes it easy to put your healthy habits on the back burner. “No matter what, I exercise for 5 minutes every day. Whatever’s going on, I have a piece of fruit every morning.” 
  • Have a plethora of options: Have a list of 10 different exercises (e.g. lunges, planks, jumping jacks, even stretches) that you can combine together for a 10-minute workout. Develop a list of go-to meals that you can throw together at a moment’s notice (I talk about this in my Back on Track Challenge that’s coming up again next month – let me know if you want to be first to be notified when it’s starting). Then keep certain foods stocked that you know will fit the bill. 

These are ideas to get you going. Now brainstorm several in each category. (Even come up with your own category and share below!)  If you regularly take action on your healthy habits – or try to – this will be a significant boost to your consistency.  

Work life balance is deciding how to handle the circumstances that come at you in ways that allow you to keep consistent with healthy habits. Ultimately, you want to avoid being “surprised” by things you could readily predict. Be flexible and plan for contingencies. That’s how you create the lifestyle that “gets you there and keeps you there.”

How to transform your mindset to reach your weight loss goal

Ever feel overwhelmed with responsibilities? Maybe you’re juggling caregiving duties, a demanding career, and perhaps even navigating the challenges of building a business. It seems like any number of things take priority while your weight loss goal takes a back seat. Or, it doesn’t get a seat at all!

Achieving long-term success in life requires prioritizing healthy habits. It’s non-negotiable. But that can be challenging to address when dealing with life’s demands. 

I remember an interview from several years ago with Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton. His words really stuck with me. He emphasized the need to embrace change as a new way of life, where one identifies herself as “this is who I am now.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

That new identity requires a wholesale mindset shift, doesn’t it? Just like many of my clients who have reversed the belief that to be healthy is hard, altering our perspective is the crucial initial step toward embodying a genuinely healthy lifestyle—one that fosters energy and resilience for your best possible life.

Consider your day-to-day internal dialogue. Is it positive or negative, filled with possibilities or excuses? Does it instill hope and confidence? Or breed feelings of defeat and shame? How you see yourself shapes this conversation, influencing your behavior and, consequently, your current reality.

weight loss goal
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The stories we tell ourselves are often deeply ingrained, crafted over years or even decades. It’s not uncommon to be surrounded by others echoing similar stories—the “this is just the way it is” or “I can’t do anything about it” narratives. Envision the possibility of flipping the script and creating a fresh, new story.

While healthy habits themselves are important, your mindset is what determines whether or not you follow through consistently. It either propels you forward or hinders your progress. The key is to take charge of your mindset. Make it a partner as you navigate the challenge of incorporating health and your weight loss goal into your busy schedule. 

Want to take the first small step? Start by recognizing the power of your self-perception and internal dialogue. Notice them. Then, challenge the ingrained excuses, and dare to envision a new story that empowers and motivates you. 

By reshaping your mindset, you pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle—one that aligns with your goals and allows you to feel in control no matter what life throws at you. (Watch out for my next post that helps you do this 👏.)

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