And... The Missing Link In Your Life
6 Minute Read
"Sometimes the end of our struggles is an and between two words."
I have a question for you...How often do you find yourself thinking:
I can either do what I love or have a successful career.
I can either be kind and gentle or assertive and determined.
I can either be disciplined and persistent or flexible and easy going.
I can either be an incredible leader or a great partner or parent.
I'm gonna guess you answered quite often. But don't worry, you're not alone. Or is a product of a deeply held and shared belief that you have to choose between seemingly opposite concepts. Our society is full of messages like this.
Would you rather have financial stability or freedom? A career in a prestigious multinational organization or purpose-driven work? A life-long hobby that adds joy to your life or a satisfying social life?
We've been raised and influenced to believe that there's a choice to be made. Often times not even questioning the other possibilities in front of us. It's either this or that.
But what if... it's this and that... and that other that, that you never even thought of?
The "Or" Mindset
Whether you're the CEO of a multi-million dollar company or the CEO of your own life, thinking in these terms, at best narrows your options to two. When in fact, you could be facing multiple possibilities some of which could potentially be more aligned with your goals and values.
To give you concrete examples, think of this, most people see their fears and insecurities followed by an end period. The story might go something like this... I'm afraid of public speaking so I could never aspire to that promotion.
Another person in the exact same situation could think... I'm afraid of public speaking and I really want that promotion. Notice the difference, while the first sentence leaves out any other option, the second one opens up ways of overcoming the fear and achieving the goal... it drives to actions and solutions.
In the "or mindset", you tend to believe that the presence of unwanted emotions or thoughts signals stop. That if you were truly "succeeding" in life you should be a hundred percent confident, free of all the pesky annoying doubts and questions.
In the "or mindset" you tend to believe in not enough and limited options. Scarcity loves a this or that moment. They feed off each other.
The And Mindset
Now welcome to the "and mindset". If you think of your mind as a house, the "or mindset" is a tiny little guest room and the "and mindset" is a huge living room with space to play.
The "and mindset" sees possibilities where the or sees restrictions and limitations.
The "and mindset" builds bridges where the or gets stuck to shore.
The "and mindset" opens up creativity and original thinking, the or mindset encourages group thinking and following the status quo.
Did you ever find yourself in a position where you felt you reached the end of the line with a collaborator, yet despite their less than stellar performance you wanted to help the person because your recognize their potential. You find yourself thinking: I either help this person or I help the organization.
Now pause for a second and contemplate this:
Would it help or broad your perspective if you thought of how can I help this person and help the organization? Would you be able to contemplate more scenarios?
The "and mindset" allows your doubts and questions to coexist, but they're just not a sign that you can't do what you really want to do. This type of thinking makes you relate to your inner dialogue a bit differently though, instead of getting stuck you move through it. Here's how:
I'm not sure I can do it and I'm going to give it my best shot.
Will you inevitably face moments where you do have to choose between one or another option? Absolutely. Will you be better off making a decision after you contemplated the and options? Absolutely.
The I Can Have It All Mindset
I'm sure by now you're thinking: does that mean you never have to choose or commit to anything? Is it true that you can really have it all?
The "and mindset" does not mean you don't commit. It means you commit to what really matters to you, it means first and foremost you have to get clear on what drives your behaviors. Why do you do what you do? That's the question that answers what matters most to you. Once you have that clarity you can start designing around it and experimenting.
Can you really have it all? If having it all means doing everything perfectly then no. If having it all means committing to the things that matter most to you and finding ways of making them work together... Yes.
You will have to choose, and say no to plenty of other things, it will just be a bit easier to do so from this standpoint.
And... After all...
We're human beings doing our best with the resources available. The "or mindset" will be useful at times, and by no means do I want to imply that you should just get rid of it, you probably couldn't if you wanted to. It's just that instead of automatically defaulting to it without awareness, you can start practicing the "and mindset".
Eventually, over time you become more used to looking at each situation and its unique circumstances and with a broader perspective deciding towards the healthiest and most value congruent option. Will it be perfect? No, let go of perfection and do your best.
"Look and see, let go be free."