Either/Or vs. Both/And










Let's start with an assertion: You, and almost everyone else, operate from an either/or perspective the majority of the time.  It is, in fact, one of the most significant blocks to powerful, authentic leadership.

The first place we'll look at is work.  You know that feeling you experience when someone else is given a promotion?  Or perhaps more common is when a supervisor of yours is singing the praises of the work that a co-worker did.  It hurts, because we hold that there's a finite amount of praise available, and either we get it, or our co-workers get it.  If our co-worker is getting a promotion, it means that we aren't, and that generates resentment and anger.

This is what coming from either/or looks like.  It's coming from a place of scarcity instead of abundance.  A place where we are playing a zero sum game, and anything that gives to someone else means losing something for ourselves.

This is an inherently disempowering position.  It steals our power and our authenticity.  In these moments, we congratulate our co-worker and smile to their face, all the while resenting them and envying them their success.  We might even come up with reasons why it was wrong for them to get the position in the first place.

This is a huge powerleak  It creates dissonance within ourselves, and it requires energy for us to maintain.  It prevents us from being authentic; from following the path to happiness and fulfillment.

Let's look in another area that this kind of mentality is quite common: relationships.  One of the first questions I ask people when I begin coaching them in a relationship is: "What percentage of the relationship are you responsible for?".  The answer is usually "50%".  Can you see how this is indicative of that same kind of thinking?

If we are only responsible for 50% of the relationship, and our partner responsible for the same amount, what does that mean when our partner only shows up with 40%?  What about when they show up with 60%.  One common problem arises when one person in a relationship starts to do things to better themselves - go to the gym, eat healthier, step outside of their comfort zone and create a job they love.

The other partner is threatened by this.  If my partner is bettering themselves, does that mean that they will grow tired of me and leave me?  Subtly, our fears tell us that if our partner betters themselves, we are worsened.

It's not wrong that we think this way - it simply saps our power.  We've been trained to approach the world from a scarcity-based mindset for decades.  Ever since we got our first dose of television, we've learned that the world is cutthroat and if you're winning, I'm losing.

So that sucks.  What do I do about it?

The first thing to do is to start noticing where you are engaging in either/or conversations and thinking.  You might hold yourself out as particular enlightened, but I promise you that if you look, you  will see this showing up everywhere.  Notice what the costs of that kind of thinking are.  I'll even give you one for free: it prevents you from finding win/win solutions.

The first stage in any new area of growth is to generate some awareness.  Awareness of what is automatic for us, and what the default position is.  Our default, after years of training, is to see things in an either/or context, and from a position of scarcity.  The great news is that the world isn't scarce.  It is truly abundant.

That doesn't mean you get to sit on your laurels and have everything fall into your lap, mind you.  It means that you can generate whatever you want to generate, provided you are willing to do what it takes, and take on what is scary.  It also means changing some of your verbiage.  To truly be a leader, you need to be willing to give up the phrase "I can't" and replace it with "I won't".

So, get familiar with the places where this conversation is showing up.  Identify what it is costing you. And then?  Then let's talk.