The genius of the “And”

February 2, 2024

If you are sad, do you feel guilty about moments of happiness? Can you have had creature comforts as a child and experienced trauma? Can you be a high achiever and be miserable?

Jim Collins and Scott Porras, two well-known business authors. wrote a book called Built to Last. Part of their premise is that our decisions are often made from the perspective of only having two choices.  They called it the “tyranny of the Or”. Binary thinking is actually helpful in some situations. If we took in all the feedback we receive, we would never make decisions. Life requires some ways to make sense of our world.

The challenge often becomes when “good or bad, right or wrong” turns into I am right, and you are wrong. It doesn’t leave room for new information, for listening to others or, more importantly, listening to ourselves. If someone’s definition of good doesn’t fit you, then are you automatically bad? What if this duality if based on false beliefs of should and shouldn’t?  Yes, I am being simplistic, and we have certainly seen variations of this play out politically and societally. If emotions need to fit into this box or that one, what happens if they can fit into two different boxes? What if you love your parents, because they are not horrible people and hate some of the things they did that negatively impacted you? What if your job doesn’t align with your values and you like the prestige?

Multiple emotions and pieces of information can coexist and alter perspective over time. Priorities shift, insights highlight landscapes differently, life changes can place you in the triangle when you always thought of yourself as more of a circle. Confusion, hurt and anger cohabitate with freedom, relief and acceptance.

When you can embrace the fact that good enough at work can create space for family and friends without indicting you as a failure, there is freedom. When your open hands are held out to receive and to give, because you know there is enough, there is relief. When self-worth is not dependent on anything other than your inner knowing and connection to yourself, there is acceptance.

How might this show up for you? If you have been expected to take the next promotion as a sign of success, you don’t have the luxury of assessing if it is what you really want. You don’t have the opportunity to step off the treadmill and feel the full extent of your exhaustion. What if you no longer must suppress all your emotions because your ability to connect with them is actually a strength rather than a weakness?

It can be quite uncomfortable to move along the continuum of color where all can be perfect even if not familiar.  Letting go of the known and moving into the place of the unknown often requires times of uncertainty. If the world of uncertainty is an anathema to you, fear and anxiety will battle with hope and anticipation. That’s okay. All emotions are okay. It is the messages and stories we have around them that make them good or bad or right or wrong.

The invitation of discovery requires that we move closer rather than resist the emotions that have become part of our way to survive rather than thrive.