Saturday, January 10, 2009

Both.and not Either/or

Life is full of dichotomies. We face many decisions: chocolate or vanilla, to spend time at work or with our family, to take the turn to the right or left. In Western tradition we become used to these binary choices whereas Eastern tradition embraces polar opposites: each positive has a negative and vice versa, the yin and the yang, you are and you are not. The overarching duality calls for us to be both individuals and members of humanity. Both aspect define our humanness. We all share a commonality, but each individual is unique. Science in the last century has also embraced both/and. It used to be thought that matter or energy existed in one state. Then along came the discovery that light acts like both a particle and a wave. The same dichotomy exists within our lives. We can embrace the opposites and not be restricted by an either/or viewpoint. We can learn to balance both work and family so we’re not sacrificing one for the other. Parents may bring children to work, take work home, set priorities and be successful in both roles. In business people get labeled as visionary or action-oriented. How about being both? How about having a clear vision about where a company is going while taking the steps to make it a reality? Rather than having to be either focused or aware of things around you, how about being both? Like a good firefighter who is concentrating on the fire but also aware of threats around him that may prevent him from quenching the fire. Do you need to either have an imagination or be pragmatic? How about both? How about dreaming up wild ideas and then implementing one with down-to-earth pragmatic steps to make it a reality? What about being either intuitive or logical? How about being both? Make the intuitive leap and then build the bridge, plank by plank that gets from here to there. Do you have to either accept your situation or improve it? No. You can both accept your current situation with a realistic assessment of all its warts, problems and challenges and then take the necessary steps to improve it. Embrace dichotomy. And by the way it doesn’t have to be chocolate or vanilla. You can order a swirl.

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