Is This Type of Thinking Killing Your Goals?


Several months back I interviewed a blogger named Jenny Blake who runs a successful blog called Life After College, and has actually just signed her first book deal. As I was going back through my chat with her about the process of writing a book, she said one thing that really stood out to me. She said that far too many people are victims of all or nothing thinking when it comes to the seemingly daunting task of writing a book.  Most people don’t even start because they think that it has to be all or nothing: write the entire book or don’t write it all. When you think about goals in general that’s not at all how they are accomplished.

Let’s take a look at how we can overcome all or nothing thinking and actually accomplish our goals.

Bite Size Pieces

One of the first things you should do with a goal is break it up into bite sized pieces. According to health experts that’s how we need to eat for a healthy digestive system. So, wouldn’t it make sense to do that in the way we accomplish our goals. When we break goals up into bite sized pieces a few things happen. First, you have measurable and visible progress. It’s also much easier to take baby steps and approach it in bite sized pieces. Let’s take a look at two examples of goals that can be accomplished in bite sized pieces:

Writing a Book: Writing a book is actually not that hard. If you’ve run a blog for over a year and have posted 3 times a week, then you have already done enough writing to write a book. Let’s say you committed to writing one page for a year and you did it every single day. At the end of the year you would have a 365 page book. You could then edit, write your book proposal, and contact a literary agent. Essentially you’d be on your way to becoming a published author. If it doesn’t work out, who cares? You’ve got a masterpiece that could fuel your blog content for a year or two.

Losing Weight: Let’s say that you have a goal of losing 25lbs. That’s not an easy feat even if you are a fitness junkie. In fact if you focus on the 25lbs, then you will never feel like you’re making any progress, and you’ll likely say “screw it” to your goal of losing weight. Let’s say you approached this plan, 1lb at a time. Then you will feel like you are making progress every time you check the scale. It’s about perspective and when we approach a goal this way our perspective shifts to a much more optimistic one about the fact that it’s possible.

One Thing Every Day

If you do one thing every single day towards the accomplishment of a goal, it’s close to inevitable that you will in fact accomplish that goal. You may not be able to quit smoking completely today, but you can give up a cigarette just for today and smoke again tomorrow if you feel the need. Just don’t get caught in that trap of all or nothing thinking. You may not be able to shed 25 lbs today, but you can eat healthy for today and deal with tomorrow when it comes.

The End Results

The end results speak for themselves. By going through your goals in this manner, and letting go of the all or nothing thinking that hold so many of us back from reaching our full potential, you have an opportunity to truly accomplish everything you want.

Do you have any examples of how you’ve broken a goal up into bite sized pieces? Please share them in the comments.

Photo by Darwin Bell

13 thoughts on “Is This Type of Thinking Killing Your Goals?”

  1. So true, Srinivas! Another form of all or nothing thinking shows up as “If everything isn’t perfect it’s not a success.” We envision success as one long string of victories, but, really, failure is also part of the process.

    In dieting we encounter plateaus, which are actually periods when our body is adjusting to our new weight. I think that those plateaus show up in everything we do, we have periods where we don’t make progress for a while when we’re learning something new or starting a new endeavor. Those lulls are a necessary part of progress, but with all or nothing thinking we’ll quit and never accomplish what we set out to do!


    1. Melinda,

      I definitely agree with you on the plateaus. I’ve found that in my blog, my career and other parts of my life that I hit plateaus. But usually the plateau is the precursor to the next upward trajectory. The problem is that too many people give up when they hit a plateau, yet sometimes this is where the most progress is being made, even though it’s not visible

  2. A huge task can be so daunting we just procrasintate and never even start. I like the idea of something everyday; I have a huge list of things I want to do with my blog, newsletter etc. I do get impatient and want them all NOW!. However as long as I know I am doing something regularly I will get there….so everydayday I do something – even on the days where I have no time at all I squeeze in half an hour somewhere to tick one task off the to do list.
    The to do list still grows but I am getting nearer my goals!

    1. Kate,

      That’s more or less how I started withe my blog too. Every single day I’d have a list and I’d aim to work on whatever I could do on that day. After a while I just got into a groove and figured out what I could finish each day and over time that has resulted in where I’m at today.

  3. Speaking of writing books (and getting over that mental hurdle), one of the best, most fun things I did was to write a novel in a month with National Novel Writing Month. You’ve got thousands of people doing it with you, and there’s no time to actually write something good, so you just have fun with it and get your word county down. Sometimes the best thing is just to start, and as you say, do one thing a day!

    Thanks for the post!


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  4. I have often been guilty of all or nothing, black or white thinking. I recently found myself in it and my father (surprise, surprise) called me on it. He said, “You’re limiting yourself. You always have more choices.” And that just hit home with me. I was able to see a hidden option that I had previously closed my mind to. It’s kind of miraculous when you see how your mind is tricking you!!

    I love your suggestions about baby steps. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with big projects but one day at a time is a wonderfully simple, EFFECTIVE strategy.

    Great guest post!

    1. Chrisy,

      It’s been one of those things I’ve been challenged with in my life. I would never start anything because of this type of thinking. But once I realized that I can just start and approach it one day at a time, I’ve started to make way more progress towards my goals.

  5. Very true indeed! Huge tasks tend to overwhelm.

    This is an extract taken from my post, “A Hill Too High” : “We cannot take more than one step at a time. It is better to face the hill thinking only about one step at a time instead of an entire steep hill to conquer. Every hill in life is too high if we think we must climb it all at once. But no hill is insurmountable if we take it one step forward at a time.”

    A wonderful post you have here. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hey Srinivas!

    Sorry I’m so late jumping into the comments here – just wanted to say thanks so much for the shout-out! I loved this post (go figure ;-).

    You’ve been doing awesome work lately – I loved the failures post, and the business updates are always so interesting too. Thanks so much for being so open and transparent about your life – it’s inspiring!


  7. This reminds me a lot of a book I just finished reading: The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. It’s all about how little daily decisions can make a huge impact when you add the element of time. If you can just get .5% closer to your goal every single day, you’ll be there in under a year. Great post, Srinivas!

  8. The “all or nothing” happened to me when I first started going to the gym a few years back. I was ready to get that six pack and big biceps. I’ll never forget it, I went into the gym and literally worked out until I couldn’t even do half a push up. The result: I was extremely sore (to the point I had trouble sleeping) for two days. Needless to say, I wasn’t very motivated about going back to the gym. In fact I didn’t for about a month. Had I taken things one small step at a time, I would have had much better success early on because I would have been more consistent.

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