Why you’re struggling to keep a Habit

An All or Nothing mindset often leaves you with nothing

We’ve all felt the rush of endorphins that happen when we commit to a big goal. We’ve all felt the pride that comes with that first workout and the excitement of that sweet new workout outfit and gym membership. And we’ve all felt the shame and disappointment seeing that outfit make it’s way to the bottom of the drawer. Or the discomfort looking at our bank statements seeing that automatic payment go out to the gym we’re not using. That’s 80.00$ a month that could’ve gone to 16 boxes of family size Corn Pops… if they are on sale.

I know your intentions are good. But unfortunately, intention is only one piece of the puzzle, and will not carry you to the consistency promise land.

In this article we’re going to examine the “All or Nothing Mindset” and offer up some strategies to better leverage this approach as well as some principles and skills to help make it more adaptable and less of the burnout inducing, morale busting beast it can often be.

All or Nothing

This type of approach is when we go all-out into something. We really pour our heart and soul into it. But if we can’t do it all-out, if we can’t do it at the very best of not only our ability, but at the ability of what we think we should be able to, we don’t do it. This approach can be both rewarding and demoralizing. Rewarding in that we can see results fast and demoralizing in that it can all come crashing down. We often start strong, but eventually fizzle out, whether it’s due to fatigue, or injury, or burnout.


  • Able to achieve competency with speed
  • Initially fast results
  • Level of commitment is high initially
  • Motivation is through the roof initially


  • Prone to burnout
  • Prone to inconsistency

That being said, it’s not all bad. I think you can leverage this type of approach quite well if you can understand how to ride the waves of motivation while keeping an eye for when that wave will dissipate. You can enjoy the extra energy new endeavours create while saving some juice for laying down systems to keep it going.

I think the biggest fault of the All or Nothing Mindset is since there is an initial influx of motivation and energy, it can become easy to muscle through common systems that often take lots of time and energy to make efficient.

For example, if we break down all the habits that go into a fitness lifestyle, each aspect can take quite a bit of time and energy to turn into an energy saving (somewhat automated) system. Let’s look at going to the gym.

First it takes time and energy to locate a suitable gym that is at a convenient location and that you like. You then need to figure out how that gym works, learn a workout program, and if you’re going really hard with your workouts, that is another substantial energy withdrawal. When we’re starting out, sometimes we pick a gym that is too far, or a workout that is too hard, but because we’re in a surplus of energy and motivation, we power through without making adjustments. Even the act of learning how a gym or grocery store is laid out takes time and energy to create the mental map that allows for efficient decision making, gym going and grocery shopping.

Then out of nowhere, we are depleted and suddenly the gym feels like it’s in another timezone and the weights immovable. It’s not that you’re lazy or weak. You likely just need some rest and some restructuring of your training and recovery… and maybe a perspective shift.

Instead of spending all the motivation and energy on output, we should spend some of that energy into creating systems that will keep the party going. Motivation and energy are finite and need to be restored, so taking some time to think about how you’re going to recover from your workout or how to streamline the gym going process so you’re less likely to run into friction when you get busy and tired can be invaluable brainstorming and planning.

Having a plan to scale up or down depending on available resources can drastically improve your consistency and in turn your ability to produce results and enjoy the process.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of “more work = more results”. But really it should be:

“What you can recover from and do often = more results”

It takes a lot of discipline and self-awareness to understand what we can recover from on a day to day basis. And the endorphins from a new goal can override our common sense. Any energy we spend on exercise, life stress, must be paid back in full with something extra to cover the growth costs. This is because after you are stressed, if the body has enough rest and resources it can not only recuperate from the stress but become stronger and more capable than it was before.

Action Points

  1. Use Start-Up Motivation to Automate Systems That You Like

Taking some time to design your lifestyle can not only be a time saver, but also give your life more satisfaction, meaning, challenge and joy. You get to carve out how and when you want certain behaviours to occur. You get to customize your habits based on your interests and your goals, so they are not only efficient but fulfilling. James Clear’s book Atomic Habits provides a wonderful blueprint for how to make this happen. As an example in the food preparation realm, I like to keep grocery lists in my notes section in my phone for specific meals and I always leave a grocery bag in the car. This allows me to complete a grocery run in short order so it’s easy to tack on to other outings. It takes energy to create the lists and meals but the return on investment in time saved is well worth it. I often get distracted at the grocery store so the lists keep me focused, with some of them I’ve even memorized them and if I feeling frisky I can get in and out in record time. And yes, I make love in the same manner I procure groceries. While I sometimes like to go to a farmer’s market situation and do a leisurely shop, I often enjoy a shorter shop so I can lie down more.

2. Create Plans for Scaling Up and Scaling Down

How can you modify the program when your child has kept you up all night? Or you went out partying? Or you’re working on a very intense project at work? It’s during times like these when having a fallback plan is crucial, because at this point an intense workout might be putting us in a big hole. But keeping the habit is necessary for long-term success and adoption into your lifestyle. This might mean going for a walk, or a swim instead. Or lifting much lighter and doing less sets. Maybe it’s having a separate workout program you can do at home, saving you the 30 minutes it takes to get to and from the gym.

One of my nutrition back up plans is having some healthier frozen dinners. Hungry Man is healthy right? It also affirms my manliness, and that is healthy. Even with the most abundant meal preps, there’s always that day where I’m gearing up to go to work and I look in the fridge and all that is left is an empty pickle jar and some rotting but still edible broccoli. A frozen dinner seems like decent pairing.

What about when you’re living the good life and have ample time, energy, food and less responsibilities? This is a perfect time to push your limits as you have lots of resources to help you recover from hard training and lots of time to spend in the gym or whichever physical arena you choose. A full-on approach thrives when you can also have full-on rest and recovery.

3. Practice Self Awareness and Energy Management

Paying attention to your thoughts and feelings is a good practice that can help you make better decisions. Specifically it can help you think more clearly and be less swayed by your bias or by more intense emotions.

It helps to think of energy like currency. It’s helpful to put some of your pay check away for a rainy day and maybe some taxes instead of spending the whole thing at Cabela’s as soon as you get it even though making it rain at Cabela’s probably feels better in the moment and the smell of various animal urines is odd yet enjoyable.

Being more aware of your spending can help you be more intentional, thoughtful and strategic so that you have the means to live life how you like. Even though hard work and effort are incredibly helpful for achieving things, so is lying down closing your eyes and relaxing your body. And if you don’t make time for things like that it can be easy for life to happen to you instead of you happening to it.

4. Practice Self-Compassion and Learn to Be Ok with Good Enough

In a world where excellence is the entry point, it can extremely painful to accept anything less than what we think is perfection.This doesn’t mean you have to make your standards abysmal though. It just means you need to be real with yourself about where you’re at and what standard you can meet with the amount of time and energy you have.

For example, let’s say you’re learning a guitar song. If you’re a complete beginner and you pick a song with 7 different bar chords, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You can try all you want but it’s going to be a mess. You will be doing an advanced song at a low level of competency. But if you choose a song with 3 easy to achieve chords, even 2, now you will be able to achieve a simpler song but at a very high standard. Beginner level but highly competent.

I think over time, the goal is to be able to do advanced things with high competency, but we need to be honest with ourselves about our abilities and work at the correct level that suits us. Competence is thriving, it’s owning what we do. On the other hand “getting by” is working at a level that is too difficult for competency.

Good enough doesn’t mean “low quality”, it means it’s good enough to achieve what we are trying to do, nothing more, nothing less. It takes time to restructure your beliefs to allow for more achievable and therefore impactful standards for yourself. It takes self-compassion to give yourself grace for when you don’t meet those standards or when you fall into a shame spiral because you ate dessert at dinner.

These are real emotions and feelings people experience when dealing with your body and it is a crucial skill to practice caring for yourself through these moments instead of trying to exercise it away.

Questions to Ask Yourself

I think if you’ve ever identified as someone who is “All or Nothing” some helpful questions are:

How can I leverage my motivation for long term success?

How can I keep a steady flow of energy and motivation?

How can I better manage my energy spending for more consistency?

Thank you for reading and see you next time,


Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top