“I’d love to start my own business, but I can’t because I don’t have any capital.”
“I’d love to change careers, but I can’t because it would take too long to get the necessary skills.”
Have you ever noticed how considering the plusses and minuses of a big career change can sap the motivation to make that very change? We can ride the waves of thinking about something we’d love to do in one moment, only to crash on the rocks of what feels like reality the next.
Perhaps our way of thinking is the limiting factor. We think we can either have this amazing dream of a work life, or we can stay stuck and unhappy forever where we are. That either/or mode of thinking (also known as a false dilemma) may be the culprit.
When we imagine possible futures, there often aren’t a lot of details. It can be hard to see how something that feels really right could actually come to be. In response, the mind will come up with all kinds of reasons that fulfillment cannot happen in order to protect us from the inevitable disappointment if it doesn’t.
While the mind has good intentions with its either/or thinking, we actually don’t have enough information at this stage to rule something out. A better strategy is to try both/and thinking.
For example: “That’s great that I want start a business and it sounds like there’s more information to gather. What additional research can I do?”
Or: “It’s true that I both want to have a fulfilling career, and I am still in my current job. Can I talk to some people to find out more about what is really needed for the kinds of positions I’m interested in?”
The goal of both/and thinking is to allow yourself to feel the excitement and your doubts – and still act. You may be right, it may take time to build the skillset. You may decide the longer-term effort is worth it. You may decide to not pursue that path. You may hear about something even better when you are vetting information! It’s just too early to know. Why cut possibilities off before they have even started?
If you find yourself stuck in either/or thinking, try these questions to get to more of a both/andmindset:
- How can I stay in the excitement?
- What information does my mind want to know?
- What complexity might I be missing?
- What if it didn’t have to be perfect?
- What is the next right step?
These questions can help you embody both/and thinking and get out of the either/or trap. Both/andthinking leads us to a deeper, more expansive understanding of the situation at hand, leading to more hope and more possibilities.