Are you an all-or-nothing kind of person?

If so, you’re not alone. In general, people have two kinds of thoughts — absolute thoughts and relative thoughts. One of the clearest ways to understand the difference between the two is to look at them in terms of a weight loss goal. A absolute thinker’s plan to lose weight would probably look something like this:

  • Work out for an hour every day starting Monday.
  • Cut out all sugar.
  • Cut out all fat.
  • Cut out all carbs.
  • Lose 15 pounds in by August 15th.

Absolute thinkers put absolute parameters on their goals, and they don’t do anything halfway. Whereas, a relative thinker’s weight loss strategy would probably look something like this:

  • Work out a few days a week (whenever there is time).
  • Ease into workouts, starting with easier exercises first and working up to harder ones.
  • Reduce one bad food or food group from my diet, and then another once my body has adjusted.
  • Lose some weight, but there’s no strict time frame or set number of pounds to lose.

As you’ve probably already guessed, relative thinkers put relative parameters on their goals, and they’re okay with making small, partial changes, one at a time.

The pros and cons of absolute thinking.

There are plusses and minuses to both absolute thinking and relative thinking, but today, we will be focusing on the pros and cons of absolute thinking in terms of how it helps or hurts in reaching your goals.

Pro #1. Absolute thinkers establish clear goals.

As you probably noticed in our example, relative thinkers are less likely to make clear, concise goals. And while, “losing some weight” definitely takes some of the pressure off of the situation rather than having a goal of losing 15 pounds by a specific date, it can be harder to actually reach a goal when it’s not clear what it is.

Pro #2. Absolute thinkers establish a plan.

The key to reaching a goal is to work towards it every day, and while planning to work out a few days a week is wonderful if you actually do it, it’s much easier to be successful if you add specific workout days into your schedule, like an absolute thinker would.

Con #1. Absolute thinkers fail absolutely.

Absolute thinkers don’t often make it easy on themselves when they miss a day at the gym or end up eating something they shouldn’t. In fact, this kind of failure often causes absolute thinkers to give up on their goals completely.

Con #2. Absolute thinkers set arbitrary limits for themselves.

Have you ever found yourself saying that you’ll start working towards your goal on Monday, or maybe on the first day of a new month? Millions of people find themselves doing this at the beginning of a New Year, but the reality is that you won’t magically find extra motivation or strength if you wait. And there’s absolutely nothing special about a Monday, or the first of the month either.

Con #3. Absolute thinkers set their expectations too high.

An all-or-nothing approach to any goal can make it almost impossible to achieve. The fact of the matter is that bad days and failures will come up, especially when you don’t leave room in your schedule to relax or rest, and when they do, absolute thinkers will often give up.

Con #4. Absolute thinkers fail to recognize small victories.

For an absolute thinker whose goal is to lose 15 pounds, there’s no such thing as success until that 15 pounds disappears from the scale. But a relative thinker knows that feeling great in their clothes, losing inches off of their waist and gaining confidence are all victories, even if the scale only shows that they lost 10 pounds. Recognizing and celebrating small victories are essential for maintaining the motivation to keep working towards your goal.

Do you struggle with absolute thinking?

Although there are some benefits to absolute thinking, in general, it does more harm than good when it comes to reaching your goals. And yes, relative thinking has downsides as well, but the truth is that incorporating aspects of both is the key to a truly successful mindset. It’s just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The absolute-thinking porridge is probably too hot, and the relative-thinking porridge is probably too cold, but if you are able to combine the best parts of both into a new way of thinking, it’ll be just right.

When it comes to reaching your goal, your mindset matters, but it’s also essential to have the right tools. Download our free personal goal planner app today to get the extra help you need to reach your own goals!