When should you be “full-on” or go “all-out” in your work?

An exploration of language, the way it can influence our perspective on performance and our experience of it.

I see myself as a pretty “full-on” person, doing many things, having a lot of interests. Often trying to do the best I can, and if I don’t, I tend to regret it. A few days ago I wondered if there is a difference between going all-out and being full-on.

Language helps us make meaning of the world around us. It flavours every aspect of our experience of life. When describing people who work hard we sometimes use the terms “full-on” or “all-out”, a few days ago I even passed by the term “full-out”. Maybe somebody asked you to go all-out for the task they gave you or you saw a co-worker be full-on in their presentation. In this post I am curious about the use of these words and whether differentiating them can help us become more aware of the kind of hard work we and others are doing.

Below offering my opinion and experience, I invite you to check what these words mean for you.

Take a pause, breath out, close your eyes, say “full-on” and feel how your body responds to it, write down words/images/sensations that come up. Repeat for “all-out”.

If you look back into your last week, when do you remember having a feeling of “full-on” versus “all-out”. What happened during these times and what was the end result of this process like?


Now, put your intuitive definition of these terms aside and let’s have a look what the Urban Dictionary has to say about them.

Full-on: Completely, in totality. When a task or role or anything is done to the absolute best of one’s ability.

All-out: Giving as much effort as possible; not holding back.

Urban Dictionary

Now, I offer my own musings and experience of both words and offer a perspective on their time an place in our life.

Full-on suggests a commitment of our whole being, fully, on a process. An everyday example could be cutting vegetables; with a sense of gratitude for what nature has offered, a respect for the sharp skill required to wield a knife, sensual joy as you feel the crunch of the cut and playful curiosity about how the soup of today is going to turn out.

All-out, although also suggesting a commitment, has nuanced differences. All, including all your physical resources. Going all out, outwards movement, not necessarily towards a specific aspect. I remember one time I decided to go all-out for my guests coming over for dinner, to make them feel appreciated. I had a whole kitchen full of ingredients and a plan with intricate preparation steps.

The examples put full-on and all-out in a somewhat positive perspective. However, from the other side, I could feel overwhelmed if I put so much energy and time into just the cutting of the vegetables that after two hours I forgot that I should have taken the garbage out. As for my dinner, doing all that work can lock me in the kitchen way beyond the arrival time of the quests, resulting in me feeling rushed and not really being able to enjoy my time with them.

Both have nuanced differences and can be desired to make progress in what you are doing. However, two aspects are important to consider for oneself.

  1. The WHY? question. Why are you being full-on or all-out? Is it for a project you love, a person you respect or does this intensity come from a place of fear from authority, failure, …
  2. Respecting natural cycles. Just like in nature we can not have full-on sun all the time, your mind and body need rest too. Give yourself the time for (un-)activities that do not feel full-on or all-out in order to resource yourself for next time.

For the readers who like to integrate these ideas deeper into their work, I invite you to playfully pay attention to these nuances when you are tackling your next challenge and observe how they affect your experience. How does it feel to go all-out, to be full-on and what are the effects afterwards, on yourself, others and the work you produce? Let us know in the comments below what you found by going through the different contemplations offered above in the article.

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