3 min read

This freeing mindset will change how you think about perfection

How to free yourself from an all or nothing mindset that's keeping you stuck in undesirable habits
This freeing mindset will change how you think about perfection
Photo by Jay Mantri on Unsplash

I sought out to eat vegetarian at the beginning of 2018. But I quickly got discouraged since it made going out to restaurants (remember that?) and going over to other’s houses more difficult. And I have joyous memories associated with eating brisket on holidays growing up — a tradition I didn’t want to give up.

So, I sought out advice. I heard about finding a suitable plant-based substitute for home-cooked meals or even going so far as to call a restaurant to see if I could bring my own food for them to cook. Wow, talk about a barrier!

Stuck in an all or nothing mindset

These barriers lead most people, and certainly me in this situation, to give up. Not just with food choices, but with developing pretty much all positive habits. We see it every year with New Year’s resolutions. The “I can’t because…” reasons get in the way of the healthy goals we envision.

This is the trouble that comes with an all or nothing approach. We’ve been trained to think that we need be 100% in or it’s not worth it.

My entire thinking changed when I learned what three of the world’s longest-lived pockets of people (aka Blue Zones) in Greece, Italy, and Japan do. They all eat meat 2–5 times per month, usually for celebrations. How freeing is that? These pockets of people are still mentally and physically thriving past 100 years old and they eat mostly vegetarian, not 100%.

I hadn’t even considered this as an option since it seemed like cheating.

So, I decided to challenge my mental barrier of you’re either 100% vegetarian or you’re a fake.

[Poster] You either do it or you don't (There's no in-between)
There is an in-between despite what this BS hustle bro poster line of inspiration says.

I made myself a rule that I would eat vegetarian during the week and do what I wanted on the weekend. This largely follows the template the healthiest longest living people have been using for hundreds of years. I’d rather follow their proven template, rather than some mostly untested fitness bro on Instagram. I’ve held to this rule for close to two years now and it’s been the best two years of my life. And I’m glad to feel joy (instead of guilt) preparing brisket for celebrations now.

Do what’s good enough

I don’t care how you choose to live your life or how you approach what you eat. I share this story to illustrate how we often get trapped in this all or nothing mindset which keeps us stuck in the habits we desire to break. I’ve used this approach successfully with exercise and phone use, as well.

One silver lining of this current moment is the pressure seems to be lessening to be perfect or ‘all in’ on something.

  • TV producers do not have the ability to create high production value shows, but the content can still be really good.
  • The gym may not be open, but people are learning that just walking, gardening, or doing bodyweight exercises works well as all these longest-lived cultures have proved. They don’t have fancy gyms or exercise routines— they just move their body most of the day.
  • It’s encouraged to bring your full self to work — a messy house, kids, sweats and all.
  • We don’t have to be perfectly done up with clothes or makeup. Being there (virtually) is what matters.

We’re also learning that somebody is not either a productive person or an unproductive person — as was the perception before. Some days are fairly productive and some days we struggle for hours to do a five-minute task. As my wife and I have been saying on some days the last few weeks, today isn’t it. And that’s fine!

Don’t get caught up in the all or nothing trap. Give yourself the freedom to take the path in-between and do what’s good enough despite what the hustle bros might say.

Have yourself a great day, even if today isn’t it!


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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