Meta Programs – All-Or-Nothing Thinking

... or something?

… or something?

Do you start sentences with “always” or “never” as the second word? That is what is called ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking or generalising. If you happen to think like that you are most likely rarely (or never?) happy with what you have achieved and are highly critical of yourself and others.

Is this me?

If you think in extremes, with no grey areas or middle ground, either like someone or hate them, exercise seven times a week or not at all, then you are very likely an ‘all-or-nothing’ thinker. Once you start listening you will find yourself saying words like “always”, “never” and “totally”. Example could be: “My boss never listens to me” or “I always get stuck in traffic.

So what is the problem?

If you are working in a profession where perfectionism is crucial, like for an accountant, then this kind of thinking is an advantage. If however you are not able to give yourself a break, you will most likely magnify the stressors in your life and make them seem bigger than they are. This can lead to overwhelm and stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure etc.

Seeing shades of grey

Sometimes it makes sense to focus on seeing the ‘in-between’. For example in relationships, when one partner disappoints the other or has an affair, it is an advantage to look at the situation with more shades than just black and white.

Behavioural flexibility

The aim with meta programs is to first know oneself and our natural tendencies. Then and if it is beneficial, we want to learn to become more flexible with them so we have a choice of how we act as opposed to re-act in our predominant ways.

I remember working with a couple, where the husband cheated on his wife who was naturally an ‘all-or-nothing’ thinker. Through our work together she came to a point where she was able to change her natural way of reacting. Rather than chucking him out of the house she chose to have relationship coaching and address the underlying issues in their marriage. This saved their relationship and allowed them to stay together as a family with their two boys.

How to get out of this thinking pattern?

Ask yourself: “always?” or “never?” depending on what you are thinking or saying. Question whether there was ever a time when this was not like that. There are not many aspect in human reality that are absolute, except if your thinking makes them like that.


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