All or Nothing

Everyone wants a top-shelf experience. Accessing the best experiences, maximizing our investments and measuring up to the ultimate result are desirable for just about everyone. It’s no wonder that the phrase, “all or nothing” is used – and misused – with such frequency.

All or nothing is often associated with exertion. The reality is that the “all” in that phrase means the total system of maintaining a healthy mental, physical, and emotional commitment to your well-being. If you’re going to say “all,” make sure you mean all of it, not just the physical exertion we usually associate with fitness.

When marketers and motivators bark, “all or nothing,” what does that mean to us? Are they saying if you can’t perform at peak levels, you should quit? Is the suggestion that anyone who hasn’t arrived ready to sacrifice all of their energy and pride should just leave? Well, that’s just silly.

Wellness isn’t a competition. In competitions, you can give your best and still lose. With wellness, you can see results from just about any level of commitment. It’s important to note this attribute because people frequently enter a new phase of wellness with a mindset of all or nothing, and soon enough, “nothing” wins.

There’s a great kids’ joke that goes, “Did you hear about the marathon runner who got tired? He ran 25 miles, and realized he wasn’t feeling up to it, so he ran back.”

Can you imagine putting the work in to train for a marathon only to quit halfway through because it’s not going according to plan? Barring an injury, there may be no reason to give up, yet I see it all the time. People who got on a meal plan and stuck to it with great discipline will derail their whole system because they had a bad weekend. I’ve watched people stop going to the gym because they skipped a week and figured they’d never recover the lost time. What they don’t realize is that every week can be week one. Put 52 of those weeks together and you’ve got a year of wellness under your belt. Every week doesn’t have to be your top-shelf workout week.

Another common phrase in my industry is “go hard.” Oh wait, I mean, “GO HARD!!!” Everyone is so busy yelling about going hard that I’m not sure anyone has taken the time to figure out what it means. I want everyone to give the best effort they can give in the moment. We have to recognize that effort is scalable and highly susceptible to a number of factors. The 17-year-old volleyball player, the 35-year-old mom, and the 63-year-old retiree do not “go hard” at the same pace. As individuals, the amount of time and energy we have available to commit to anything also varies. These inconsistencies are part of life, but can be overcome by staying connected to your motivation, your “Why,” and your Heart. When I talk about overcoming an inconsistency, I don’t mean finding a way to give your all in the same way every time. I’m talking about redefining what “all” means. We have to define “hard” before we start going hard.

If you’ve had excellent consistency with gym time, but now you must travel for work, is it time to give up? No, continue going hard by being mindful of your nutrition. Go hard by remembering hydration and committing to getting good rest. Taking these steps won’t have the immediate gratification of a good workout, but you will have sustained the benefits of your efforts until you can return to your routine.

Sustain an injury? Go hard in the kitchen. Visiting relatives that don’t offer a lot in the way of healthy meals? Go hard by inviting them to walk with you after dinner.

Define what it means to give all, to go hard, mentally before you commit to it physically. If you want to end each day asking yourself if you gave it your all, go ahead. But make sure you’ve grasped that giving it your all means making adjustments. You can end the day on a win without checking every box of your original wellness to-do list. If you realize that you aren’t going to make it to the gym that evening, adjust by doing something. Maybe that alternate choice is less impactful physically, but mentally you’re setting yourself up for success because you didn’t give up. You trained according to the moment you were given, without comparing it to anyone, or any other time in your own life.

Reframing what it means to give your all will help you maintain a positive attitude in light of setbacks and limitations. One of my clients is expecting her first child soon. Having previously been active in the gym on a regular basis, slowing down was hard for her, until she discovered how much she truly enjoyed going on walks. Her version of going hard shifted from high intensity interval training to walking through her neighborhood, but she never felt as if she were compromising. Instead, she celebrated finding a new way to stay in touch with her motivation.

What we have to go all in on is accommodating ourselves based on motivations, not final outcomes. I read about a professional athlete recently who was going through hand-rehabilitation. He said the hardest exercise was putting pennies in a jar. The goal was to be able to put a dollar in the jar in less than a minute. At first, he could only do about 30 cents a minute. Then 50, then 70. Finally, he was able to get a dollar done in under 50 seconds. Was it important to the world that the jar had 100 pennies in it? Nope. What mattered was that this athlete was working the flexors in his thumb and fingers to regain agility and hand-eye acuity. His normal workouts consisted of heavy lifting, endurance sprints, and impact cardio. But the work that saved his career was putting pennies in a jar. And how did he approach that task? He went hard. He gave his career all or nothing, by agreeing that “all” might mean performing a simple task until he gets it right.

Let’s revisit my pregnant client. She’s been reframing going hard on a temporary scale during her pregnancy. Soon enough she’s going to need to redefine how to give her all on a whole new, permanent scale. While the seasons of our lives will impact our commitments, the measure of that impact will be decided by our decision to determine, in advance, what going hard will mean, come what may.

As you focus on your own wellness for the first time or the 100th time, stay in touch with your Heart. Don’t let your Focus drift too far ahead or remain centered on strict results. Give your all to your desire to celebrate the Power of good choices. All or nothing? Nah. All or anything. Go hard, go easy, just get going.