I first heard this phrase from my sister who works for a public school in a very rough part of their city. The superintendent of the school system made this the motto for all the faculty. They don’t settle for half way solutions. The students get the best of the teachers and staff all the time. When they do something, they really do it.

It took me a while to fully absorb all the nuanced, complex and high level aspects of what this truly meant. I thought that blanket application of “all in all the time” can lead to unhealthy if not disastrous consequences.

Which brings me to the point of this post

How can you possibly be all in all the time on all things and stay healthy mentally and physically?

The short answer is that you can’t. If you are good with that answer, stop here and move onto one of our other posts.

However, I have some thoughts on this from a greater perspective.

I fully believe that you can lead an “all in all the time” life. The trick is to fully understand and be honest with yourself about how much you are capable of doing, being able to confidently say no, and to not feel regret about saying no.

An all in all the time life is delicious and every moment of it should be savored. When you decide to do something, really do it. Experience it, live in the now with it, put your whole heart and soul into it. Why else would you choose do it?

Not being present

I have often been that guy who would be doing something, even something I truly love, and be thinking about the next thing I wanted to do or worrying about something that hadn’t happened yet. That would steal a portion of the experience from me and not allow me to truly savor that moment. Strangely enough, the time I realized this was while climbing Mt. Rainier and facing some life threatening moments.

The amount of focus and presence needed during those times created indelible impressions on me for the better. We had no choice but to be all in. During the hard, grueling parts of the climb, that weren’t life threatening, my mind would wonder and usually to a place of worrying about what was ahead or how hard it was going to be. Essentially, time wasted thinking about things I couldn’t control. The difference between the two ways of thinking was striking.

“Want to” vs. “Have to”

Okay, there are things we “have to do” and we may not have a choice whether we do it or not. I get that. But, we do have a choice on our attitude while we do it. If it has to be done, why not do it to the best of our ability?

As a restaurant manager, I never asked anyone to do a job that I wouldn’t do myself and that included cleaning the restrooms when the need arose. I certainly didn’t want to do it, but there is a level of self-respect and respect from others that is earned by doing even the worst jobs all in.

Max Cap (maximum capacity)

What about the classic situation of being overscheduled and over committed? You have to work all day, get the kids to sports practice that night, make dinner, make sure homework is done, get everyone ready for bed and so on and so forth. This is the hardest situation for me because it requires some hard decisions to be made.

At what point do you admit that you can’t do everything? If you can only give 50% of yourself to work when you are there, 50% attention to your kids sports game, 50% commitment to making dinner, how satisfying are those activities for you? How satisfying are they to the people that you shorted?

How do you make those tough decisions? How do you decide which area to give 100% of yourself to? Those are very personal decisions based on your own moral compass and what is most important to you. While people like me might be able to offer suggestions, only you can choose the answer that is right for you and your situation.

My point in all of this is two fold

Living “all in all the time” adds intensity, presence, enjoyment, satisfaction and purpose to your life.

By taking care of yourself and knowing when you are max capacity, you can give more to others. If you are spread too thin or are too overloaded, you are not the only one that suffers. Everyone that you are involved with suffers.

Think of your life like a picture of a rainbow. Would you rather have a lot of pictures of that rainbow with 1/2 of the color washed out or would you like to have one really good picture with vibrant and intense color that truly captured the moment?

Take the time to think about which life you would like to have a picture of.