As humans there is often no shortage of people in our lives who are happy to tell us how we should be, what we’re supposed to look like, how we’re supposed to act and what we are supposed to do in any circumstance. Accompanying these socially prescribed “right” understandings are often a variety of prohibitions letting us know all of the things in life that are mutually exclusive: you can’t have a career and a family, you can’t work 3 days a week and be successful, you can’t mix your passion and your career, etc.
There are all these rules about how we are supposed to live and how things are supposed to work out and many of us wholeheartedly believe these rules and it is stagnating us.
I recently had a client who was struggling to figure out her next move and she was struggling to make a decision. She was examining certain career opportunities available to her and she was convinced that they were all mutually exclusive. She believed that she had to pursue her legal career or her passion for social change. She believed that she had to be an educator or an attorney. She felt that she was at a crossroads and the only way to move forward was to make a dramatic change one way or the other. She was paralyzed by the
tyranny of the or.
During our session together, we were able to explore the possibility that maybe none of her dreams need to be mutually exclusive: it’s possible to have a legal career and do lobbying work. It’s possible to be an attorney and support nonprofits with their legislative work. It’s possible to be an attorney and an educator.
When we allow our ourselves to buy into either/or propositions, our brain is not able to see the solutions available to us. (Hello, confirmation bias, you old goat!)
When we feel like we are faced with mutually exclusive options, our duty as evolving humans is to challenge these prescribed rules and ask:
Why can’t we do both? What could that look like?
Does one choice really have to eclipse the other?
Is there some way we could make both options work?
How do we know that we can’t do both?
The only way you will ever know the answer to these questions is if you ditch the tyranny of the or and invest in both and thinking.
If you catch yourself feeling stuck and unsure what to do next ask yourself whether you are subscribing mutually exclusive thinking. Instead consider ways that you can make all options work for you in this moment.
I encounter all sorts of professionals whose lives are multifaceted and well-rounded. Women who are invested in both and thinking and committed to living a well-rounded life that incorporates everything they want. They don’t allow their lives to be a series of black and white options: they subscribe to both and thinking.
If this is appealing to you, I would love to visit with you and see how we can get you closer to a balanced, both and kind of life. Grab a free consult and let’s get to work.
This doesn’t necessitate any large life changes but can be applied at the simplest and most basic levels. I can’t work out and get my work done. I can’t get enough sleep and finish these projects. I can’t have a social life and have a career.
The next time you catch yourself in one of these simplistic lines of thinking, ask yourself whether this is a middle ground. For instance, if you are stuck thinking I can’t work out and get my work done, what if you only tried to work out for 30 minutes instead of an hour? What if you identified projects that don’t need an A+ finish and used that extra time to workout?
When we allow ourselves to ditch the tyranny of the or, we are often amazed at the solutions that manifest just to being open to new possibilities.
Photo by DS stories