Moving From “Either/Or” To “And/Both” Thinking

Linda Sollars | August 21, 2018

Our Western society tends toward duality in so many circumstances. We seem to feel more comfortable with less choice and yet, the options we select diminish our opportunities.

  • You are either with us…..or against us.
  • Our actions come from heredity… or environment.
  • We either major in economics…..or communications.
  • We either take a job that pays well…..or take a job we love.

All of us have heard these and made decisions based on the presumption that we need to choose one…or the other. And yet, if we look at our actions and our outcomes, most have multiple components. It is important to recognize the options, the possible and the potential in each circumstance. Otherwise we feel trapped into selecting one option over another, as if these were the only routes to “success”. However, if we can learn to replace our tendency to select one over the other and begin to look at BOTH ..AND, we open entirely new options.

This Ying/Yan symbol provides a great representation of AND/BOTH thinking:

This symbol represents two sides of our nature, or two options, in perfect balance, which is the goal but not the norm in our lives. The line that divides the white (Yang) from the black (Yin) is actually a river that moves back and forth across the circle. The black and white dots are called “seeds”. The black “seed” in the white area represents the understanding that even though we are in a positive state, we also know what negativity feels like, and visa versa.

Each time you begin with “EITHER…OR” statements, try replacing them with “AND…BOTH” such as:

  • I can take a job that pays well AND one that I love.
  • I can major in both chemistry and philosophy.