Train Yourself to Let Go of All-or-Nothing Thinking - Christine Kane

(This is a follow up post to my recent post Letting Go of All-or-Nothing Thinking.)

All or Nothing thinking says, “You either do this perfectly, or you don’t even bother.” It’s one of the biggest blocks to making positive changes in your life. It’s one of the biggest blocks to making your life work at all.

Here are a few little things I have learned to do to train myself to let go of All-or-Nothing Thinking:

1 – Climb back on the wagon but make the horses go slow.

Let’s talk about this in terms of exercising first. After all, this is the time of year all of those New Year’s Resolution Exercisers are no longer making it to the gym. Don’t be one of them!

Let’s say you had to go on a business trip, and it was cold because you were in Buffalo. (And there was like, 462 inches of snow on the ground.) Let’s say it has been a whole week since you exercised. And now you’re disappointed because you were doing “SO WELL!!!!”

The very best way to get over the unproductive thoughts that tell you there’s no use in trying now because you’ve ruined everything is to start by being really nice to yourself. Go to the gym, but only do a small work out. If you do the elliptical, just do half of your normal time. If you lift weights, cut the weight down, and do two sets instead of three. Then, leave the gym and be really proud of yourself. Be very kind. Then, when you return the next day, build on the previous day’s work just a little.

This practice has kept me exercising regularly for three years now. Working out is a habit. It’s something I love. AND I’ve missed a week here and there because of travel or because I’ve gotten a cold. I’m always really gentle when I return.

The theory behind this is that you want to teach yourself to look forward to going to the gym. You can’t teach yourself by making yourself miserable. You know how to have a good work out. And you’ll get back to that level. For now, teach yourself how to make the practice of exercise into a habit.

Same thing applies to Law of Attraction and changing thought patterns. Let’s say you went on a pity binge, or a blame binge or a drama binge. Maybe you even catch yourself in the middle of it. Now, if you’re an All-or-Nothing thinker, it’s SO tempting to fall prey to the voice that says, “Look at you. You can’t do this stuff. No one else goes to these bad places. You’re a born drama queen and you’ll never change your thoughts.” But here’s the cool thing: that voice isn’t true. It wants you to believe it’s true because it’s fighting for survival. You, however, have the ultimate weapon: choice.

So here’s what you do: Choose to make it your goal to feel a little bit better. Remember, it’s about training yourself into new habits. You want this to be fun. So, sit quietly and breathe for a little bit. Then just let yourself daydream. But focus only on your vision or on your affirmation or on what you want. Just a little piece of it. If you feel yourself moving into the big visualizations and that feels right, then go with it. But if you don’t, and if your All-or-Nothing mindset is dolling out F’s and prison sentences, just try to quietly think of one small thing that is inspiring about your vision or your goal.

Or spend five minutes laying in bed being grateful. Be grateful for the bed first. Be grateful for your cat. Be grateful for warmth. The smallest amount of gratitude can move you into the slightest bit better space. And that’s all you have to do when you’re first climbing back on the wagon. Find the slightest bit of better space. You’ll get back to those big affirmations and great attractions soon enough. You just have to know that you’re working your way back there.

2 – If your wagon has a seatbelt, fasten it.

(Okay, I got the wagon metaphor going. Just work with me here.)

This is also called “Recommit Yourself.” Once you are out of the acute stages of the setback, and you’ve taken small steps towards feeling better or moving back towards your vision, then commit yourself again to that vision. Have a ceremony. Say a prayer. Say yes again. Add an image to your vision board. Just make sure you remember that you have a goal, you’ve set an intent, and that you know you’re working towards it. This step is important even if it feels forced. It trains you to recognize that everything is a choice. The All-or-Nothing Voices want you to believe that everything happens TO you. That you are a victim. This step takes back the responsibility (and leaves the “fault” behind) by reconnecting you to your power to choose again.

3 – Make sure the whiney voices don’t get the reins.

This is about shrinking the parts of you that create All-or-Nothing situations in the first place.

One of the practices I have created for myself is to not call people the instant I am in the bad place. Now, this is not to say that I don’t reach out to people, or that I don’t help friends in need. I do. But choosing NOT to call people with my drama, however, has been a great learning experience for me.

I know that some of us have deep emotions. I’m not trying to diminish that. I do, however, want to offer you the option of not giving so much weight to all of those emotions. For instance, I know that if I call someone and talk about the whiney stuff in my head, all I’m doing is expanding it. I’m focusing on it.

Now, I wait it out a little. I don’t give it all the attention it is used to getting. I’m clear that I don’t want to put that energy out there. If I can move into a better place, and I still need to talk about it, then I call someone when I can talk about it objectively. This trains the emotional stuff to shrink a little bit. It trains the drama to learn that it can sit in the back seat, and that someone else has taken the reins. Emotions can be great guides, but they are mostly terrible drivers.
This might sound like radical advice, especially for those of you who rely on 12-step models of support. Follow this one only if it clicks. If it clicks for you, then that’s great. Try it.

4 – Get in a wagon train. (Okay, even I’m rolling my eyes now.)

Find a support group. Take a workshop. A weekly meeting of some kind can do wonders for putting you back on track, and for reminding you that you can get back on track. I’m lucky to live in a place that has lots of resources for this kind of thing. If you don’t have access to this kind of activity, start a group yourself. Start a Law of Attraction group. Or find one. Or get a partner. We all need support in this work. We all need someone to say, “I know you can do this.” Or “I support you in this.” Or “Yay! You went to the gym!”

Monday night was the final night of a seven week course I had taken. It was a course called “Creative Mind.” (Taught by Barbara Waterhouse, an amazing teacher and mentor to me.) Everyone in the class got a chance to speak about their own progress throughout the seven weeks. I was amazed at how vibrant each person was after the two hours was over. Each person’s commitment to his/her own growth was motivation for everyone else. There are many people like you out there. Just knowing that can help you along on your way as your trusty wagon rolls off into the western horizon and a cowboy off in the distance sings Red River Valley…

  • Erin

    Great post, love the message AND the metaphor. So…Yeehaw! Get along little dogies! Wagons west!

  • Christine Kane

    barbb, that’s great to hear. I love that book. And the more I work with some of the principles, the more profound it becomes.

    Thanks Nicole! No coinky-dinks, for sure!

  • Nicole Hyde

    Christine, you have this knack of writing precisely what I need to hear at exactly the right time. Coinky-dink? I don’t think so. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you for your thoughtfulness and generous spirit.

  • barbb

    once again you are the scout ahead of the wagon train showing us the way. just finished reading the chapters in “Ask” gets more clear each time and I can feel myself focus on the feeling better. thanks barb

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks Susie! And no worries about the advertising!

  • Susie

    I’m going to jump on the “Wagon Train” here. Celebrating each other’s successes is HUGE! I want to invite all of your readers to join “The Sunshine Journal.” The Sunshine Journal is a new blog that my friend and I just started and it celebrates all good news. (Christine, you might remember this Journal from a few years back as my friend talked to you after a show at Drury University to ask if we could include your lyrics in the Journal).

    What great timing on this post! Encouraging everyone to get a “Wagon Train” and now there’s the outlet of The Sunshine Journal to celebrate those achievements (see folks, the Law of Attraction really does work ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Check out the site at:
    And let us know if you’d like to add any good news, poetry, art, etc. to the Journal!

    (p.s. Christine, I hope I didn’t advertise too much on here about another Blog, but I just couldn’t pass-up the good timing!)

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks to each of you who commented here. I’m in the midst of songwriting stuff… and I’ve read each person’s notes here and I’m happy to just let them each speak for themselves as a continuum of the conversation! (though meg, I have to say that I can’t BELIEVE you EVER rolled your eyes at my metaphors! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  • Michelle

    Okay the extended metaphor made me chuckle but the points were well made nonetheless. I catch myself doing some of those things when my efforts don’t work out well the first time and your advice is excellent.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you, THANK YOU to all of you… you’ve expressed my thoughts, and it is somehow strangely comforting to know that I’m not the only one in the stranglehold of all-or-nothing. The point of living is that we’ll never have “all,” and if we believe we have to have “all” to be happy, life just will be a series of disappointments.

    I am officially in my boat, on the wagon, and determined to be better every day.

  • Meg


    You ARE a “chick with a vision!” And I am working on *my* vision, with your (much appreciated) coaching. From reading your blogs, I am getting better at celebrating my strengths and dealing with my opprotunities and those that present themsleves to me in a more healthy manner. I love my gratitude time in the morning, playing with the dogs in bed for a while and really counting my blessings. It starts my day off in a wonderful way.

    Your insights really land with me in a positive way, so much so that I don’t even groan at your metaphors any more ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for your blog and for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

    I just put a large label-maker label on my worklap with “Every(italicized, oversized font)thing is a choice…” — what a geek I am.

    BTW, I find you rmusic as valauable as your blog. You’ve been my top play on Rhapsody for a few months running!

    Thanks again and best wishes!

  • Caren

    Phew. Thank you so much for this! Since your first article on all-or-nothing thinking, (or AONT), it’s been revealed to me how MUCH this thinking pervades what I do. And I thought I had it all under control! LOL Baby steps, baby steps… I get so much out of how you break the big concepts down.

    I remember once my sponsor told me that most of her sponsees’ phone calls could basically be summed up in one statement: “I’m having feeeelings!!” LOL Well – after so many years of numbing those feelings out, yeah, it’s a little intimidating to be experiencing them. I can say after 15 years of feeling my feelings, I’ve learned to just *be* with them. Invite ’em for tea, if they want. Here – curl up with me while we watch Grey’s Anatomy. Want more cookies? Oh – you need to go? Okay.

    Don’t forget to breathe….


  • ChickiePam

    Hi Christine,
    I’m listenting to Abraham tapes right now. A wonderful friend loaned me two of them and I play them constantly in my car and drive my 12 yr old crazy! anyway, what they repeated say over and over again is to find a way to think a “better” thought or to feel a “better” feeling. If you are in a place of depspondancy, it is impossible to go to a place of joy, and that’s OK. But you CAN go to a place that feels a little better. The key is to find something/anything that feels better than what you were feeling. What you call it is irrevelant.

    What Abraham, and you, offer is that I don’t have to “get there” to that great feeling place. I can start right where I am and make small changes, take baby steps. Abraham says to put your boat into the river right where you are, since it’s the only place you can be anyway! Then in order to go wtih the flow of the river, just think/feel a better though/feeling. I like that. It allows me to be much gentler with myself. (I’m very good at being gentle with others, but I don’t usually behave as nicely toward myself!)

    Thank you for your blog. You, (this blog and your retreat, I’m sure) Abraham and Barbara’s classes (I’m going to the one on The Secret, too.) are all helping me to stay focused on what I REALLY desire, instead of the niggly little details that can show up in a life. AFter all, the more I focus on the niggly stuff, the more niggly stuff I get! It’sfeels good to be back in the stream of life instead of in the throws of greif.

  • Jen

    This is just the guidance I needed. Thank you for your wonderful articles. I’m thoroughly enjoying this blog!

  • m

    I make up these lists of things to do and then of couse only do a small number of them. I used to start feeling really bad about it but now I’m learning to praise myself for what I have done. We really don’t focus on our achievements. Its a huge turn around for me.