We often look at things in black and white, good or bad, right or wrong. We love to see things as a choice between two options. “Should the Bachelor choose the soft-spoken librarian or the self-assured entrepreneur?” It’s something it seems we can’t escape.
Life isn’t typically set up to be an either/or scenario and sometimes limiting ourselves to this type of thinking only serves to stop us from achieving all that we can.
In the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, the authors refer to either/or thinking. This is thinking that limits us in our decisions.
For instance, we may have a job offer with a new company where we will enjoy the work but be paid little over. This is opposed to our current job where we are paid well but hate our job. We may wonder how we would choose a particular one over the other, not realizing there may be other options on the table, such as looking for a third job option or talking to our boss to change our role.
Take a Sad Wrong and Make It Better
In fact, we can look at a few examples to see how we could take a second look to find a third option.
I’m sure we have all been in a situation where we heard someone spouting an idea that didn’t seem that wise, but it was minor and we didn’t want to ruffle feathers. It might be that our first option was to blindly agree. After all if it’s something minor, there’s no reason to disagree. But if it’s a really bad idea, a better option might be to disagree and to show them where their thinking is wrong.
In a lot of situations it might seem like it is this choice between good and bad: blindly agreeing or disagreeing. But what if there is a third option? What if there is a way we could highlight better options, but without disagreeing? What if we could find a way to agree with the good points of their idea, but then show them how to make it better? That’s a stronger third option.
You Can Have Everything In Life You Want
Or perhaps someone is trying to get somewhere in the company, yet they are not making strong connections with the right people. That’s a tough place to be; it’s hard to get anything done without getting people on board with your ideas. So, it appears, the better option is to play politics. This is the route many people go. They find the way to get key players involved to get what they want.
There ends up being two groups: those who “won’t play politics” and seem to get nowhere, and those that do and seem to not always do the best they can, but work within the system.
But isn’t there a third option? What if there is more than just those two options? Why do we always make every situation either/or: you have to play politics or be isolated from ever getting anything done.
What if you could find a way to serve others. As Zig Ziglar said “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” If your focus is on helping others get what they want, you don’t have to play politics. Your goal is simply to help everyone and they in turn will help you. No games to play; no manipulations, just honest service that will come back around.
Be Open To That Option
We are bombarded day in and day out with two options. Politicians love to leave us with two options: “Are you for me or do you hate America?” Reality shows love to leave us with two options: “On tonight’s eviction, will the brash cowboy from Minnesota be voted off or the outspoken designer from Florida?” Even game shows get in on the fun: “Do you want to take what’s in your hand or choose what’s behind door number two?”
Let’s get out of the box they’ve put us in and live our lives on our terms. The next time you feel like you are in a box, look for a third option. If someone gives you a choice between two paths, look for the third. You may find you enjoy the road less traveled.