Saturday, May 16, 2009
In my coaching practice, with myself and others, I often come across what I call "either/or thinking" where one sees that they have too few and mutually exclusive options available to them. Such an approach puts us in a box, overly narrows our sense of realistic possibility, discourages us, and keeping us from our potential.
A good mentor of mine once taught me to practice an alternative to "either/or" thinking, which she called "both/and" thinking. Such thinking considers many options and considers that most options have the potential to be taken in combination with, or in succession to, other options. This thinking broadens our sense of possibility in the present, and in the future. It also encourages and draws us toward our full potential.
Getting from one way of thinking to the other requires the habit of reframing. A few good examples of reframing to "and/both" thinking, I can readily recall are:
Once in a workshop I was asking a young lady about her career aspirations and she related that she wanted to be an auto mechanic and a writer. She lamented that these aspirations confused her as they were unrelated. She felt torn because she saw them as an "either/or". I helped her to reframe to understand that they were in fact a "both/and" as the auto (correction: transportation) industry made huge use of writers spanning from technical to journalistic to marketing. She was stunned as she had never thought of these as possibilities. This reframe allowed her to see the broader number of possibilities available to her in her areas of passion, auto mechanics and writing.
In a recent phone coaching session, I talked with a communications professional looking to apply her talents in a similar role, though different organizational setting within her present industry. Unfortunately her selected role/organization/industry "value contribution target" is shrinking in number. She saw that either she would nail a job in her selected "value contribution target", or she would be locked out of all desirable options. In our further discussion, we were able to jointly reframe in such a way that we expanded the scope of the target industry in a way she had not thought about. Breaking out of this industry box brought on an "and/both" epiphany for her as she understood that she had too narrowly defined her "value contribution target". She left our conversation energized and more hopeful about her career search possibilities.
Personally, I had been plagued for many years of my career with the dilemma of my simultaneous desire for the scale of Corporate America and the freedom and nimbleness of entrepreneurship. I used to burn up a lot of unproductive energy performing in one environment while pining away for the other. I am thankful that I have reframed this from an "either/or" to a "both/and". I have learned to perform as an "intrapreneur" who helps healthcare corporations venture into the use of new media & marketing communications models to service their and their customers' interests. This role has been an "and/both" situation for me. I had not so much planned this as stumbled into it as I have worked, over years, to pursue my passions and continually rediscover my "sweet spot" within the organizations I have worked for.
So as you go about your life, watch this tendency to put yourself in an "either/or" box and practice reframing to keep yourself progressively more in an "and/both" frame of mind.
Please share examples of where you have been successful with this reframing and be in touch if you need assistance with this for yourself.