“All or Nothing” – What Me?

Firstly, let’s be clear, we are not talking about an illness here. A/N is a personality-style rather than a diagnosis. It is an approach to life that revolves around a highly developed ability to focus and bring about the successful completion of goals and tasks. Such people are usually very busy and it is busyness with a purpose i.e. to meet a target or obligation. However, as part of this way of doing life, the A/N individual prioritizes certain tasks above all else. As a result, other “less important” aspects of their life can be overlooked or ignored. Not a problem for a day or two but it can become an issue if the goal is a longer term project.

inner critic

A couple of things that can drive the dedication within an A/N person are a strong perfectionistic streak and a harsh internal critic. The latter is where a person beats themselves up psychologically if they fail to meet their own high standards – sound familiar to anyone?? The response from an A/N person is generally to push themselves harder to try and accomplish the high standards they set. There is often also a change to personal patterns of thinking so that such people see the world in a dichotomous way – things are either perfect or useless, with no middle ground. Starting to see where the term “All or Nothing” comes from?

As some smart scientist once said – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So it is with this approach to life. By being intensely focused, the individual can lose their sense of self and become increasingly determined (or is that stubborn?). The potential risk with A/N behaviour is that things that are important in life-domains other than the prioritized one, can quickly take a back seat. This is not so good for the friends, partners, kids or hobbies as there is little time left to participate in these aspects of life. Indeed, the focal task may come to dominate what you think about and narrow your perspective without you becoming fully aware of the extent. Over time, you can end up pushing yourself so hard that you pay a price in terms of stress levels, physical health, anxiety or even depression.

There are no set criteria for identifying an A/N person. However, there are often clues within the individuals behaviour and how they interact with life. Take a moment to consider some of the points (not exhaustive) below, as they may be indicating this approach could be part of your world:

  • Expecting highly of your self
  • Focusing on a task to the exclusion of all else
  • Pushing yourself despite negative personal outcomes
  • Describing yourself as “driven”
  • Your life is out of balance –  you notice this or others tell you
  • The goals and timeframes you set are unrealistic

If you see some of yourself in what has been written today, it may help to reflect on whether this approach to life comes with some costs – maybe not now but perhaps in the (near) future.

Blog by Mike McKinney (Psycinsight)

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