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When we make a declaration of a new lifestyle, goal, or habit, it can be hard to stick to. According to research by the University of Scranton, 92% of people don’t achieve their New Year’s Resolution goals ( We want to create habits to be happier and healthier, but change is not always easy. If we genuinely want to discover the best version of ourselves, why do we give up on some of our goals?

Over the new few weeks, I’ll be exploring things I’ve done to help me achieve my goals; things like winning a World Championship, getting my Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, sticking to a plant-based diet, and starting (and evolving) my own business.  It didn’t start with saying, “I absolutely have to be the best.”  It started with “I want to be the best that I can be.”
There are multiple reasons we don’t achieve our goals.

  • We get stuck in all-or-none thinking. Sometimes we don’t even start working towards a goal or habit because it seems too unattainable.
  • When we make a mistake or a slip-up, we give up and revert back to our old habits because sticking to the new one seems too hard.
  • We don’t create a support network and an environment for change
  • Our goals are not specific or measurable.
  • We are worried about changing our identity or how other people perceive us

Today, I’m going to explore all-or-none thinking and use my plant-based diet as an example.  My choices in life are what some might consider “extreme.”  It’s true, when I love something, I go bonkers for it; I’m all in.  It’s passion!  The problem with all-or-none is that it’s a form of perfectionism.  It’s the reason why some of us are intimidated to work towards a goal and the reason why we burn out.  It’s also the reason why we won’t even get started.  When I decided I wanted to change my food lifestyle, I decided to throw out my all-or-none thinking to help me make a change.
As I mentioned in my blog post about why I eat a plant-based diet, I incrementally made changes to how I ate.  The idea of declaring that I would never eat meat or dairy again made me not even want to start.   I had to pull myself out of the all-or-none thinking to make a change. In order to feel empowered to try, I set goals that seem reasonable and attainable; that I would eat plant-based all day except for dinners 5 nights a week.  Eventually, I transitioned my entire diet to plant-based because I liked it and it made me feel good.  Knowing that I had the option to eat meat or dairy enabled me to get started.

One of my readers, Bryn Dearborn wanted to set a goal of eating a plant-based diet. He told me, “I appreciated your statement about being 90% vegan. Today I ordered a lunch salad and when I got back to my desk realized I ended up with 4 oz of chicken instead of falafel. It made it easier mentally to be just OK eating that and not making a big deal out of it.”

Giving yourself permission to start incrementally and not be all-or-none will help you start trending in the direction of your goal, but you do have set boundaries.  The goal doesn’t have to be a plant-based diet. The only time you have to be all-or-none is if you have a full blown clinical addiction to something harmful.  In the case of our topic, it could be eating less sweets, drinking less booze (instead of saying ‘I’m never drinking again’), doing more corework, etc.  However, make sure that your goal has a defined boundary like, “I’m going to drink less – 3 drinks per week on the weekends.”

Beating ourselves up over mistakes actually makes us more likely to sabotage ourselves.  In Kelly McGonigals book, The WillPower Instinct, she states “The biggest enemies of willpower are temptation, self-criticism, and stress.”

In short, here’s how to set a goal without being all-or-none:

  • Start small with something that you know can achieve.
    • If you want to do more core-work, say you’ll do 1 minute a day instead of 10 minutes a day.
    •  If you want to change your diet, start with changing one meal per week.
    • If you said you wanted to ride for 2 hours but only have 30 minutes, ride for 30 minutes.  It still makes a difference.
  • To achieve your goal, you don’t have to be 100% perfect with your process.  With diet, you crave what you tell yourself you can’t have.  If your goal is to read one book per week and it takes you two weeks, you’re still trending in the direction you want to go.
  • One mistake doesn’t mean you have to start over from the beginning.  Simply pick up where you left off.
  • If your goal isn’t achieved in the amount of time you set or you don’t get the exact outcome you wanted, it’s not a total failure. The goal is to improve, not to be perfect.

My next one is to learn piano.  I haven’t done it because I was thinking to myself, “If I can’t practice 15 minutes a day, then it’s not worth it.” Guess what? I’m wrong.

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