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How To Avoid Quitting When Your Goals Aren’t Going As Planned

If building healthy habits were easy, everyone would look like Barbie and Ken. Unfortunately, as you’ve probably noticed, it’s not that easy.

There are many reasons people fall short when it comes to achieving a fitness, nutrition, or health goal. However, one reason that I hear again and again, is that people struggle to get back on track after making a mistake. 

Giving up on a goal after making a small mistake is an overreaction due to an error in mindset.

That’s why I’ve made you the free 2-Minute Mindset Makeover Checklist that you can work through after having a slip-up. This mindset exercise can help you slow down and put things into perspective so that you can bounce back from a mistake and go on to achieve your goals!

I would recommend downloading the 2-Minute Mindset Makeover now, so you can follow-along as we go.

Got it? Okay, let’s get started!

Mindset Case Study: Meet Sharon

Let’s examine what this error in mindset might look like using a case study.

Sharon is a working mother of two in her early 40’s. She has a goal of shedding a few pounds so that she looks and feels more healthy and confident. She has chosen to improve her diet in order to reach this goal. 

Sharon has set a short-term goal to eat healthy all week long. She typically eats breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks per day for a total of 35 meals per week.

Monday and Tuesday go great and Sharon’s really proud of herself, all 10 meals were healthy! But on Wednesday morning her boss brings donuts to the weekly meeting. 

She tries hard to resist, but the temptation of that delicious donut is just too strong… We’ve all been there.

The next thing Sharon knows, she’s eaten the donut and is beating herself up about it. She tells herself she’ll never be able to reach her goals, and decides to just give up.

She says, I might as well eat whatever I want now. So she grabs a burger at the cafe at work instead of eating the salad she packed for lunch, and grabs a pizza for dinner on the way home.

Have you ever had a slip-up like Sharon and then just completely given up on your goals?

If so, you aren’t alone. But why do we do this, and how can we stop so that we can achieve our goals?

5 simple steps to get back on track after a slip-up with your health & fitness goals.
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Introducing The All-Or-None Mindset

What we saw in Sharon’s case, is what is often called the “all-or-none mindset”. It is especially common among perfectionists.

The all-or-none mindset is summed up well in the following quote:

"The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you cannot do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all." ~ James Clear #AtomicHabits Share on X

The all-or-none mindset is a subset of the “Fixed Mindset” described by Psychologist Dr. Dweck in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”.

The Problem With The All-Or-None Mindset

Take Sharon’s goal of eating healthy all week long. If she eats 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, that’s 35 chances to eat healthy throughout the week. 

Does the one unhealthy snack she ate mean that the 10 healthy meals she ate earlier in the week don’t count for anything? 

Should one unhealthy snack mean that the 24 meals/snacks that are left in the week won’t do her any good, even if they are healthy?

The obvious answer to both of these questions is NO. 

Every little bit matters when it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition goals. 

If Sharon was eating 35 UN-healthy meals a week, eating 10 healthy meals (as she did on Monday and Tuesday) is a huge improvement. 

And if she would have been able to get back on track after her slip-up, she still could have eaten 34 healthy meals. But instead, she panicked, and quit her goal.

The all-or-none mindset is illogical. It is an emotional overreaction, and flawed way of thinking based on perfectionism. This mindset is a recipe for failure when it comes to health and fitness goals.

Free mindset quiz. What type of mindset do you have?
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Trade the All-Or-None Mindset For The Growth Mindset To Achieve Your Goals

People with the growth mindset understand that mistakes are not the end of the world. In fact, they often don’t feel that mistakes are failures at all. Instead, people with the growth mindset see mistakes as learning opportunities.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, is perhaps the ultimate example of the growth mindset, as is illustrated by the following quote:

Growth mindset. I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work. Thomas Edison quote. Light bulb.

By treating mistakes as learning opportunities, as Thomas Edison does here, quitting is not even considered, because perfection is not required

The growth mindset gives you permission to make mistakes – so long as you learn from them. #ProgressNotPerfection #GrowthMindset Share on X
Table comparing the characteristics of the all-or-none mindset versus the growth mindset.

The 2-Minute Mindset Exercise To Overcome Slip-ups And Avoid Quitting When Things Get Tough

When you have a slip-up on the path to your goal, walk yourself through the following process:

Step 1 – Don’t Panic

Remind yourself that mistakes are only natural and that you don’t have to be perfect to make progress. If you’re into mantras, maybe recite “progress, not perfection” to yourself a few times.

Step 2 – Put It In Perspective

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being super minor, and 10 being the end of the world, how bad was your mistake? Look at the big picture. Is it something you can come back from? Sharon’s mistake certainly was.

Step 3 – Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Beating yourself up when you slip-up doesn’t get you any closer to achieving your goals. In fact, it makes you more likely to quit.

Step 4 – Reflect On Past Successes

Slow down and take a moment to reflect on your past successes (like Sharon’s 10 healthy meals earlier in the week). One mistake isn’t worth throwing away all the hard work you’ve already done.

Step 5 – Learn From Your Mistakes

Once you’re over the emotion of the mistake, ask yourself what went wrong. Learn from this mistake and form a plan as to how to prevent it from happening again in the future. 

How to avoid quitting when your new goals aren't going as planned
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Going through this 5-step mental process only takes a few minutes and can help you stick to your goals and avoid quitting, even after mistakes are made.

Don’t forget to download your copy of the 2-Minute Mindset Makeover from the Free Resource Library! Keep it somewhere accessible (like stored on your phone, or printed out at home etc.) so you can have it on hand when you need it most!

If you liked this, make sure to check out my next post, which lays out an easy-to-follow 3-step process to troubleshoot any obstacles that come up as you work towards your health and fitness goals!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

  • Have you ever quit a goal after making a small mistake?
  • Can you think of any situations in the past where you have had the all-or-none mindset?
  • What ways have you found to get back on track after having a slip-up on the way to achieving your goal?

Let me know in the comments!


P.S. Don’t forget to download your copy of the 2-Minute Mindset Makeover if you haven’t already!

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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a health coach, autoimmune warrior, and avid adventurer. And she is on a mission to help women escape the diet-culture mentality so they can build healthy habits they actually WANT to stick to - without all the guilt, deprivation and FOMO! When she's not coaching amazing women like yourself, you'll find her outside - hiking, paddling, and hunting for hidden waterfalls on the island of Kauai where she lives with her partner and furry side-kick, Ipo!

116 Replies to “How To Avoid Quitting When Your Goals Aren’t Going As Planned

  1. During the peak of lockdown I tried my best to be healthy and maintained it for a few weeks before falling off track again… the quote you posted from Edison really hit as I do believe failing is a step closer to success! I’ll try the 5 steps next time I have a slip up

  2. Great post. I am currently on a healthy eating and exercise change to my life. Today was a really hard day for my mental health and I ordered a takeaway and ate the ice cream. Its just one day, I will be back on it tomorrow and wont beat myself up about it. One day wont undo the hard work I have been putting in for the last 4 weeks. x

    1. Exactly Angela, great job! Ice cream has always been my kryptonite. I have a sort of a mantra I like to say, it’s “never miss twice”. Got to get right back on the horse if you have a little slip up. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. This is a really great post with an important message. I will hold my hand up and say I’ve been guilty of giving up on things in the past after a few ‘blips’. But I’ve certainly come to realise that you need to keep going with your goals and not give up after a small setback. I’ve noticed a shift in my mindset over the last few years.

    1. Thank you Jaclyn! I think most people have been guilty of this at one time or another. It’s kind of crazy how much mindset pays a role in this. Mine has changed a ton in the last 5 years or so as well. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  4. Great post! Nowadays there’s so much pressure to be perfect, it can be very defeating to make a mistake – but it’s so natural and human to do so 🙂 I think working on self-acceptance while attempting any major goal (fitness or otherwise!) is really important.

    Yaya – yayatales.com

    1. I absolutely agree Yaya – self acceptance is so important! As it’s setting realistic expectations for ourselves. Being absolutely perfect is not realistic! Great point about this applying to any type of goal. ? Thanks so much for taking the time to add to the conversation!

  5. This is great! It’s tough to get out of that mindset that you’ve failed when you slip up, but your tips are really helpful.

    1. It can definitely be tough Kait, I agree! Mindset is something that must be built over time with lots of purposeful effort. But when your mind is in the right place, it is so much easier to accomplish things! Thanks for reading and I’m glad to hear you found the tips to be helpful!

  6. I’ve definitely had such a huge problem with the “all or nothing” mentality ! My whole life, I’ve had that mentality and it’s set me back in many areas such as health, I wish I’d read this when I was younger and needed a different approach!
    Great post !

    1. I am so happy to hear you found this so helpful Cherbelle! I’ll be the first to admit that I had the all-or-none mindset for most of my life. I’ve always been a perfectionist (and am still working on that). But my friends and family could tell you that I was always my own worst critic. When I achieved things, I never gave myself credit, because I just expected those things of myself. And when I failed, oh boy, watch out – I was inconsolable and would beat myself up about it endlessly. But now that I can understand this Mindset and recognize it in myself, things have gotten so much better! I hope this helps you in your goals going forward. Thanks for reading! ♥️

  7. This advice to not giving up after making mistakes works not only for health and fitness goals, but also for business goals. Many people have the all-or-nothing-mindset. I think, you can learn form your mistakes and they are useful for making progress. Thank you for this excellent post.

  8. I feel the urge to snack often, but I have to be mindful about it. It is interesting to learn about the all-or-none mindset. I agree with you. One cheat meal doesn’t ruin everything. It is if all meals become cheat meals. Thanks for sharing this info!

    Nancy ✨ exquisitely.me

  9. Thanks for reading Nancy! I’m a big time snacker too. Especially when bored (and there’s a lot of that going around this year!). I’ve been trying very hard during this time to keep lots of healthy snack options (and very few unhealthy options) stocked in my kitchen. That way when the moment of temptation comes at least I’ll choose something healthy to munch on.

  10. Great post Clarissa! I know some people who have perfect or nothing mindset and honestly it’s just not realistic.

    Side note: if we looked like barbie we wouldnt be able to stand up. Lol :-p

  11. In psychology, ambivalence is quite a good thing. You start questioning your actions and learning from your past experiences, including eating the donut. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Great article Clarissa!

    I also saw a transition of my mindset to the growth mindset. You always need to remind yourself about that, but in the end, you get more things done and feel much better!

  13. Great advice in avoiding the all-or-none mindset. It’s so true. You can easily slip into the through process that if you slip up for even a day you’ve failed. That’s simply not true. It’s ok to slip up now and then. Cut yourself some slack. That way your efforts won’t seem so rigid, and you’re less likely to get frustrated.

    1. Anthony, you’re so right, it can be very easy to slip into that all-or-none mindset if we aren’t paying attention. Especially if we are perfectionists by nature. Being aware of our mindset is the first step! Thanks for taking the time to read.

  14. I am Sharon LOL
    This helped me so much. Thank you for putting this into perspective. I had not looked at it this way before, I would count a slip up as a “cheat day” but those quickly turned into cheat weeks and a mudslide into unhealthy eating. The way you outline is far more logical. Thank you.

    1. I’m glad you found this so helpful Giulia! There’s no shame in being Sharon – I’ll be the first to admit that I had this mindset for most of my life!

      Research by Carol Dweck, the psychologist that coined the terms “fixed” and “growth” mindset, found that simply being aware of your mindset is the first step to changing it. So you’re on your way, work through these 5-steps when you need a reminder! ?

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful Sunshine! Learning from our mistakes is super important to prevent frustration and future slip-ups. I like to make a habit of doing this weekly! Stay tuned for the next post, I’ll be writing about my process for doing that. ? Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and offer your thoughts!

  15. I love this post!!! I’ve been an all-or-nothing person in the past. It’s been tough to get past that. It’s so easy to use the “Oh, I’ll just do better tomorrow” excuse even though it never seems to work out that way.
    This is super helpful. I love the scale of 1-10. Such an easy way to realize it’s not as bad as you first think it is.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. You’re welcome Kaci, I’m glad you found it so helpful!

      I love the scale of 1-10 as well. It can be so easy to make a mountain out of a molehill and beat yourself up for things that really aren’t that big of a deal. I use that scale often to bring things back into perspective.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and contribute to the conversation! ?

    1. That’s great Lisa! And I definitely agree that understanding the trigger for why you slipped up is very important. I’m actually writing a post about that right now. ? Thanks so much for reading!

    1. That’s very true Neecee! If we want to establish a new healthy habit, it takes a lot of conscious effort and the right mindset to make it happen. Thanks for taking the time to read!

    1. You’re very welcome! I definitely agree, a lot of people are their own worst critics – and it really doesn’t help anything. Thanks so much for taking the time to read!

  16. Great article. My biggest takeaway is ‘When I am not seeking perfection then a slip up is not a failure’. I just need to continue because the goal is growth not perfection. Great reminder for a perfectionist.

    1. Yes, you’ve got it Amanda! The growth mindset gives you permission to make mistakes because mistakes are nothing more than an opportunity to learn and grow. But perfectionism can paralyze us for fear of making mistakes. It can cause us to quit our goals rather than continue and possibly make a mistake. In this way perfectionism can prevent us from achieving much of anything. Thank you for reading!

  17. Great post! I`ll admit that for years I`ve had the all or nothing mentality, and it was so damaging. I am trying to be more forgiving, and not let one small mistake deter my progress. I`m also trying to analyze my mistake, and look for patterns. What caused me to slip?I try to look at the situation and avoid it in the future.

    1. I hear you Georgiana! You definitely aren’t the only one with the all or none mindset. I used to be very much this way and a lot of clients that I talk to have this mindset as well. It sounds like you’ve got a great action plan to overcome that though! Thanks so much for sharing your experience in taking time to leave a comment.

    1. I’m glad to hear you found this helpful Adenike! I would definitely agree with you that people tend to fixate on their mistakes even if they’re successes far outweigh those mistakes. We’ve got to learn to give ourselves a little credit! Thanks for stopping by and giving this a read.

    1. My pleasure Lisa I’m glad you found it helpful. I agree that it can definitely be hard to get back on the horse. But I think taking a literal time out and going through these steps can be super helpful to put things back in perspective. Thank you so much for adding to our conversation!

  18. This is such a great post and some really helpful tips. I have definitely been in a similar place to Sharon before but agree you have to look at the bigger picture.

    1. Yes, it’s all about the big picture isn’t it Kelly? Building a new habit is a long-term thing so it’s very important to look at the big picture rather than focusing on the little slip-ups. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  19. I’m definitely guilty of being an all-or-nothing person previously. But I came to realise how unhealthy and limiting it is. None of us would achieve anything if we kept that mindset. We had a talk on growth mindset at work and it really resonated with me. Since then I always try to adopt a growth mindset and I must admit it makes me much happier and more motivated. Thank you for sharing this post, it’s a really helpful reminder and I’m sure it’ll help a lot of people x

    1. That’s awesome that your work introduced you to the growth mindset Jaclyn! It was actually my work that introduced me to the growth mindset too – I guess it must have been seven or eight years ago now, but it had a huge impact on the way that I thought and approached challenging situations. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  20. i love this! taking smaller steps especially when it comes to fitness and achieving its goals just makes the results more sustainable and realistic! great take on it x

    1. You are welcome Fadima! I am glad I was able to introduce you to the all or none mindset.It’s such an important thing to be aware of so that you don’t accidentally hold yourself back from achieving your goals. Thank you for reading!

    1. I’m glad to hear that this post has given you some encouragement to stick to your goals Ruth! Slip-ups are natural when we are trying to build new habits. We should plan for them and not beat ourselves up too much about it when they happen. Hang in there and thanks for giving this a read!

    1. That’s great that you’re so resilient Virginia! Yes, if we can see mistakes as learning opportunities rather than complete failures it can really help us stay positive and continue on with our goals rather than quitting. Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!

  21. I love this shift in mindset – it makes a lot of sense. It has a much more meaningful motivational message as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  22. Thank you for sharing these ideas, I really need help staying committed to my goals, particularly fitness-related ones. I’m trying to keep up with a regular workout this year- just to stay fit and healthy- but as soon as it starts getting tough I give up. Maybe this post will keep me motivated this time around x

    1. I hope you’re right in that this does help you stick to your health and fitness goals this year Eleanor! I think just taking the time to pause and put into perspective the situation can make all the difference. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this and Happy New Year!

  23. Thank you for sharing Clarissa! This is so helpful and easy to follow. I have been quitting and been discouraged a lot when I couldn’t make things the way I envisioned in the past, but I am trying to work on it and work through them. This will surely help x

    1. That’s awesome Cristina! I hope it does. I think the most important thing to remember is that building new habits is hard and we shouldn’t put that unrealistic expectation on ourselves that we need to be perfect 100% of the time. Slip-ups happen and we can still see progress even with them as long as we don’t give up altogether.

  24. Great post! I have often found myself getting caught in the all-or-nothing mindset, especially when it comes to my fitness goals. The 2-minute exercise is definitely going to help me. I think step 2: Putting it in Perspective is what is really going to help me stick to it. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. You are welcome Tiffany! It’s funny how much of a difference pausing stepping back and putting things into perspective can be isn’t it? I found that it makes all the difference and hope that it will help you with your goals this year. Thanks for taking the time to read and happy New Year!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this Olivia! It’s so true and that we never regret sticking with a goal I don’t know we almost always regret giving it up. I hope this little exercise makes it a little easier to put things in perspective and stick to that goal. Thanks for taking the time to comment and contribute to the conversation!

    1. I’m glad that you liked it Delaney! I hope that this short little exercise will help put things into perspective so that you can get back on the horse rather than quitting and restarting and quitting again. Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog!

    1. Ah, thank you I’m glad that you found this so helpful. Seven or eight years ago I used to be exactly the same always my own worst critic but I finally realized how unproductive that was and am now so much happier that I’ve overcome it!

  25. Great story and so true — I definitely have that mindset, which is something I’m working on in 2021!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that this gave you some inspiration Molly! Your poem sounds great I love the name. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking time to give this a read. Happy New Year!

    1. I hear you Lynn it can be tempting to jump around. I still have a bit of trouble doing this with my blog but I’m trying to stay a little bit more focused on one thing at a time. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and happy New Year!

  26. Excellent post. I’ve definitely learnt a great deal about keeping on at my goals by being patient and not beating myself up too much. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome Graham. And that’s awesome, patience is definitely much easier said than done especially when it comes to things that we really have to play the long game with. Thank you so much for stopping by and giving this a read!

  27. When I “slip up” I try to recount all the reasons why. Usually, they’re important issues/needs and recognizing that helps me skip the guilt phase and get back to my goals. xo Nipa

  28. Great tips, Clarissa. I loved the example of eating healthy snacks versus sometimes ditching them. We did this on this new year’s day and put on some weight. My teenager got worried after putting on some weight. So, I told him the same thing, don’t be hard on yourself. Your wt is going to come down eventually because you are back to regular healthier meals.
    Wishing you a happy, healthy, and successful 2021.

    1. Happy new year to you too Sara! Sounds like great advice. We don’t have to be perfect 100% of the time. That would make life real dull. The most important thing is to just get back on the horse as soon as possible. Thanks for taking the time to read!

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found this helpful. 2 minute mindset exercise seems so simple but it has saved me more times than I can count. It’s easy how quickly we want to make a mountain out of a molehill. But slowing down can really help us put things in perspective. Happy New Year!

  29. I’ve been guilty of quitting my goals before because I also had the all or nothing mindset. Over the years though, I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself and accept that at times, I will make a mistake or I will fail to follow through with my goal but that doesn’t mean I should stop.


    1. That’s awesome that you have learned that Liz. I used to be the same way but started to change probably seven or eight years ago now. I also think there’s something about getting a little bit older that makes us realize we don’t need to beat ourselves up so much. Better a friend than an enemy for sure. Thanks for stopping by to give this a read and Happy New Year!

  30. Love this! Think it’s so important to remember you’re allowed to have an off day when trying to achieve your goal!

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

  31. I agree with that about the all or nothing mindset being damaging! It’s good to just push through and keep going then setting yourself up for failure! Great post!

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