Why You Should Let Go of Extremes

Dr. Michelle Robin explains why an all or none approach to health can derail you from reaching your wellness goals.

Story by Dr. Michelle Robin

Valerie came into the office for a wellness consult. She has been working on eating more healthfully and moving her body. She’s been doing well and really feeling the results after just a few weeks. But on this visit Valerie was a bit down and out. I asked how she felt, how things were going with her plan. She said, “It was great. I was a total rock star juicing every morning, eating well throughout the day, walking each night. I felt great and was so proud of myself.”

I waited to respond because I could tell there was a “but” coming. “But I totally failed,” she continued.

“How did you fail?” I asked.

“I had to go on this business trip for a week. I took my workout gear, but was too exhausted each night to go to the hotel gym. I started out eating well with the healthy snacks I took, but I didn’t have control of the bad catered food. Then I got home from a week like that to a fridge full of leftover pizza the family ordered while I was gone. To make matters worse, it rained all last week so I couldn’t go for my walks.” Valerie sighed, “I’m sorry.”

I gave her a hug and then looked her in the eyes and said, “There is no need for an apology to me or anyone else. You did not fail. You may have wandered off the path, but you can get right back on. Don’t fall into an all or none mindset. There is no success or joy there. Seek progress. Don’t worry about perfection.”

We went on to talk about how she could shift her mindset out of extremes and pick up where she left off with the next better choice.

Can you relate?

Living an all or none life is not much of a life at all. It robs us of joy. It is an imbalanced way of being that can lead to excess or deprivation, either possibly creating a devastating effect in the long term and frustration in the short term. The most common way we see it in our everyday is when we are trying to make changes in our lives. We want to lose weight, to be healthier, to get better sleep, to have better relationships. We craft a plan of dos and don’ts.

All is going well along our new path. And then we stumble. The first time we just brush it off. The second time we get discouraged. The committee of naysayers in our head starts chattering, “We knew you couldn’t do this.” The next time we’re faced with the choice to move towards our goals or take the more comfortable, old route, we’re more hesitant about the change. Suddenly we’ve failed. We’ve not only fallen off the path, but down into the gully. If we can’t do it perfectly, we’re not going to do it at all.

Just because you made a choice that was not in alignment with your goals doesn’t mean it’s over. Make a different choice next time. Just because you said you were going to work out four times this week and you only made it twice doesn’t mean you throw in the towel. Just because you don’t yet have the endurance to run a marathon doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start moving your body by walking around the block. Just because you aren’t sure you can really go gluten free doesn’t mean you can’t ease into it by slowly eliminating products. Just because you did nothing to move towards your goals today doesn’t mean you can’t do something tomorrow.

Changing habits is never easy, even when we want the outcome with all of our heart. Are there circumstances when your life may depend on an extreme, blunt, instant, no exceptions kind of change? Yes, and that is different and necessary. Most of us, thankfully, don’t have that near term, life-threatening impetus, so an all or none mindset is not supportive for making positive changes in our well-being.

If you don’t get caught up in the all or none and allow the nature of life’s ebb and flow a bit, you’ll start to notice a few things:

  1. Not striving for perfection leaves a lot more room for kindness and self-compassion.
  2. A natural sweet spot will reveal itself, that place that is the right blend of choices that works for you and your well-being.
  3. It’s easier to fold in new healthy habits and make progress on your journey to wellness.

Release the extremes. Embrace the flow and cha-cha of progress, one choice at a time.

Dr. Michelle Robin is an author, international speaker, and Founder and CWO of Your Wellness Connection, P.A. She is the author of The E Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich – Three Steps to Vibrant HealthWellness on a Shoestring: Seven Habits for a Healthy Life, and co-author of the #1 bestseller Succeeding In Spite of Everything. Dr. Robin can be reached at, and as Dr. Michelle Robin on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.