Think back to a time when you had set yourself a goal or committed to a new routine. How did you go? If you remember moments where you slipped off track, don’t worry.
One of the most common patterns of goal setting and action taking is starting off with motivation levels really high, creating great routines and habits and taking actions towards your goal, but a few weeks go past and life stressors start to creep back in. The busy-ness of life starts to impact how you feel and before you know it, motivation is dipping and you feel like you’ve fallen off the wagon.
I want to teach you a Cognitive Distortion (that’s a fancy way of saying thinking pattern) that you can start to look out for. When you can catch this thinking pattern out, you are more likely to give yourself compassion rather than beating yourself up and also more likely to get back on track sooner.
This thinking pattern is called Black or White Thinking, or All or Nothing Thinking. This can be so engrained or such a habit for your brain to do that you don’t even realise you’re doing it!
So, what is Black or White Thinking and how do you recognise it?
Essentially, it is splitting. Things are either good or bad. Right or wrong. There is no in between. You will notice this if you think you did well at something or on the other hand, you feel like you failed. Someone else’s opinion is either right or wrong, there is no aspects that you ‘kind of’ agree with. You like someone or you don’t.
By seeing the world in black or white, rather than the rainbow that it actually is, you might initially make it easier to separate good from bad or right from wrong. But, this thinking can be exhausting because it sends you through constant ups and downs.
There’s a good chance you engage in Black or White Thinking if you’re quite hard on yourself.
You might have a certain opinion about something or someone and be quite extreme with that perception. You cut out the grey areas or coloured areas in between these opinions. The trouble comes when you realise that there is so much complexity in life. There are so many different feelings, emotions, opinions and perspectives that come into play when you are looking at individual people, groups or people and situations in general.
A really simple example can be committing to the Transform with Thessy program. A few weeks in, you give in to the temptation and have a row of chocolate and you forgo your workout for an afternoon on the couch watching Netflix. Black or White Thinking can come in here and have you feel like you’ve failed for that day (or week). In your mind, you think you’ve failed your plan so you continue to have the rest of the block of chocolate and write the day off.
You start thinking to yourself ‘Oh well, I’ll have to restart again on Monday.’
Sometimes, you might even decide to give up on the program all together.
Guess what? It’s okay. You’re only human. There are going to be moments that you falter, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It just means life happened and you can learn to roll with that instead of being so hard on yourself.
Some questions to ask yourself if you think Black or White Thinking might be happening for you:
- Is this Black or White Thinking?
- Is what I’m thinking 100% true?
- Is there any areas of grey that I’m missing out on here?
- Am I being too hard or extreme on myself?
- What else can I look at in this situation? Or how else could I view this situation?
- What would I tell my best friend if she was in this situation?
By learning to catch out Black or White Thinking it means you can be kinder to yourself, achieve your goals quicker and more efficiently and be feeling happier and accomplished more often!
Ami Rankin - Emotional Wellbeing Coach