MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY! THE IMPACT OF BLACK AND WHITE THINKING
This topic came up in a recent client conversation. The client was struggling with a situation where he wanted to continue racing and pursuing his dream but needed to work in order to pay his bills. He was not at a point where he was being paid, whether through race winnings, sponsorships or a paid ride, to be able to afford not to have some type of job. I am sure many of you can identify with this particular struggle. You might have even been there yourself recently.
The client felt very stuck because in his mind he was in an either-or scenario. Meaning either he become successful and be able to quit working which would allow him to commit his full attention to racing OR he would need to continue working. He did not see an alternative.
I challenged this thought process. Why did it need to be either or? Why could it not be AND? Understanding that most racers want to reach the pinnacle in their given sport, the end goal is to become a professional and be paid to do only that. However, reality is still reality.
My question to him was “Why do you need to choose between pursuing your dream AND making enough to pay your bills”?
WHAT DOES IT LOOK/SOUND LIKE?
You don’t need to be a professional athlete or aspiring professional athlete to get stuck in this way of thinking. A black and white thought process is something that happens to most of us at some point during our lives. Depending on your mindset you may be more prone to this than others.
Often you won’t even realize that this is occurring unless someone challenges you. Especially if this is your default.
Staying locked in this type of thinking can be very limiting as well as cause a lot of internal judgement.
Someone that has a very black and white way of thinking will use the following words a lot:
HOW CAN IT HURT YOU?
If you have an inability to see that a situation could be both “bad” and “good” often it will cause you issues. For instance, people who are black and white thinkers are often unable to see one or the other. They focus on either the bad or the good, often to their own harm.
In a work scenario this might look like you are loving your job until a new supervisor joins your department. You don’t care for the supervisor and so suddenly everything about your work is terrible. You can’t see any solution other than to quit.
In a relationship this can cause arguments because you are unwilling or unable to see your partners point of view.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Working on finding the happy medium beginning to integrate the good and the bad is where the journey back to “and” starts. The client and I had a conversation around why he felt that there was only one path. Often processing the thoughts out loud with someone is helpful in starting to unravel the thinking. You need to be aware of the thought process first, however.
Digging in a bit into some of the long-held beliefs that you may have around “should”, “always” and “never” may also shed some light on your thought process.
Finally, making a “grey scale” could be effective. On a sheet of paper list from 1 to 5. On one side list the “bad” word associated with whatever you are thinking about. Number that 1. On the other side list the “good” word. Number that 5. Work to come up with the words that fill in 2-4. Focus on those for a while. How does that feel?
If you find yourself getting stuck in these types of thoughts fairly often, lets chat. This is something I work with clients on regularly.
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