We can do Project A or Project B. Do you want more time or more money? You can have a great marriage and average career or average marriage and great career. I’ve got yellow or red, which do you want? Win or lose. Yes or no. The world is black or white. You can have this or that. Which do you prefer? We must choose.
All of the statements and questions above are examples of either/or thinking. All of them pre-suppose that we live in a world bounded by the choice of either this or that – one or the other. These statements are founded on the belief that our world is limited. All of these choices are fundamentally rooted in the “lack mentality.”
I believe there is another option. This option will give you more choices; it will improve your outlook and attitude and the quality of your life. (It also may contribute greatly to improving your standard of living).
This second approach expands our thinking and is based on a belief that there is plenty in the world for everyone – plenty of time, opportunities, money, resources, people, fun, experiences. I call it “both/and” thinking. This mindset is rooted in the “abundance mentality.”
We started with eight either/or options. Let’s focus on just one (you can use the logic and approach on any of the others – or anything else in your life) and consider two project opportunities with a both/and mentality. Start by asking . . . “How can we do both Projects A and B?”
By asking the question you are challenging the underpinning of the lack mentality; by asking the question you are opening yourself to new possibilities.
Don’t have enough people to do both projects? If both have a positive payoff, why not get some additional help either on the projects or on other work to free up time for the projects?
Don’t have enough money to pursue both projects? What if you found a partner? Who else might benefit?
I could continue, but you get the idea.
At this point you may be thinking that if we keep saying “yes” we’ll never have any focus or achieve high quality results in the choices we make. Of course we still have to prioritize and make choices. The concept of both/and thinking is to open us up to more options and opportunities before immediately moving to making a choice between A or B.
If you believe that the world is filled with many possibilities and that there are always more options to consider, then you will feel completely comfortable asking these sorts of questions. When we live in an either/or world, we are immediately settling for one or the other before we even consider that something more or different is possible.
Keys to Both/And Thinking
There are four keys to developing and using “both/and” thinking. Recognize that at the start (and in the end) utilizing this mental approach is a habit – a habit that you can nurture and develop.
Believe in abundance. It starts with a belief that more is available to us – in terms of possibilities, resources, opportunities and approaches. When we believe this is true we will begin our search for more options.
Operate on faith. Even if your belief in abundance isn’t yet strong, operate on faith. Have faith that it is true, even if you can’t see it or feel it yet.
Ask the question. To see the options you have to ask the question, “why not both?” Or variations like, “How can we do both?” “What would we have to modify or adjust to achieve both of these?” “Why do we have to choose?” You get the idea.
Consider the possibilities. Once you have asked the question, be open to the options and you’ll be amazed at how many will show up for you.
What You Can Do Now
You are facing some situation right now. How are you thinking about it? Are you thinking either/or or both/and? If you are thinking either/or take the steps above – try both/and thinking.
Challenge yourself (or your team) to exercise some both/and thinking. If you (or they) don’t believe it is possible, suspend judgment for a few minutes and just try the exercise.
Trying it is the first step – and that is a step you can take right now.