It Isn’t All or Nothing


You’ve likely heard the stats – or like me, lived them. Millions of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but less than 10% succeed with the changes they are trying to make.

One reason for our generally dismal success rate is our tendency to do “all or nothing” thinking.

See if this sounds familiar: “I might as well order dessert since I already blew my diet at dinner.” Or, “I didn’t go to the gym this morning as planned so I’ll just start my new exercise routine tomorrow.” Or, “I’ve already missed the first two meetings of that Bible study; I’ll just wait until they start the next session in the spring.”

Around these parts we like to say:


Do something about one thing rather than nothing about everything.


The difference between doing something rather than nothing is huge.

Is your one word HEALTH? If you don’t have a full hour to workout at the gym, decide to make it the best 25-minute workout you can. Can’t get to the gym at all before work? Go for a quick jog around your neighborhood followed by a few sit-ups. Already late for work? Throw your sneakers in a bag and take them with you, then walk during your lunch break.

Is your one word PRAYER? Can’t sit down and pray today before you get in the shower for work? Then pray while in the shower, or during your commute.

Is your one word PATIENCE? Not sure how to begin developing patience? Just get in the longest checkout line this week each time you are in a store.

When we make a decision to do something, followed by action, no matter how small that action is, we build forward momentum. The more forward momentum we have, the easier it becomes to do the next something. And we begin to change our habits and routines.

Again, the difference between doing something today and doing nothing today grows exponentially over time. Small actions can actually have big impact.

So replace your “all or nothing” thinking with this thought:  Any effort towards the direction of my one word will be more effective than no effort.

And never forget, in matters of character and the heart especially, it is ultimately God that does the transforming. So bring Him into your process!


Rachel Olsen is the co-author of My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word, and on faculty at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington.