“I can stay in my job and have enough money, or I can do what I love and be broke.”
“I can’t be happy as long as I’m married to Clyde.”
“Since I have been a full-time parent for the last ten years, the only job I can possibly get won’t pay very much.”
All statements I have heard in the last month — that’s true.
But they’re not true statements. Sure, they feel true to the folks saying them, but they’re really either/or, black/white statements. They’re what’s called “limiting beliefs”. Either/or statements like this serve a great purpose — they keep us pretty well stuck.
Because… is it true that you have to be broke to do what you love? Hmmmn. Oprah looks like she loves what she does and she’s doing all right. Bill Gates? He seems pretty happy. Steve Jobs is passionate about what he does, and he gets all the IStuff he can use. Bono gets to be a multi-millionaire rock star AND do good while wearing cool sunglasses.
Either/or statements serve as fear-based predictors of what’s going to happen. If you go into a job interview with the mindset, “Since I’ve been a full-time parent for 10 years, I can’t ask for too much” — guess what? You won’t. Confidence in your own self-worth is reflected in that thought, and you telegraph it to everyone you meet. How much stronger to say, “Even though I’ve been out of the workforce for 10 years, I bring great skills and excellent contacts — I’m worth what they’ve budgeted for this position’s salary.”
Living in black/white, either/or land is one way to make sure you’re always right. “I can’t be happy if I’m married to Clyde” — a popular kind of statement. Saying this, you will discard any experience that might show that you could be happy, or, heaven forbid, that you actually like Clyde. You will pursue, or maybe even create, opportunities to be unhappy with Clyde. What if you turned it around and figured ways to see if you could be happy with Clyde, oh, like, let’s see: counseling, mutual hobbies, actually talking to him…
Often when we “can’t be happy” it’s not because of someone else, but because of something within ourselves. And we owe it to the Clydes of the world to work on that before laying our own dissatisfaction at their feet.
Living in the gray between black/white is the challenge, and the gift. It’s saying, “I can lose weight while eating fewer carbs.” It’s saying, “I may have to start the work I love on the side or as a volunteer, while I keep my job for the income.” It’s “I can be happy with or without Clyde — it’s up to me.”
There are “motivational speakers” out there who tout the idea “You CAN have it all.” Which is, poppets, yet another black/white statement. The beauty of living in the gray is replacing “either/or” with “and”. It’s so much more balanced to believe, “I can have some of this and some of that,” or, even more true, “I can have whatever I need.”
Contrary to popular belief, life is not all or nothing. The key to getting unstuck is getting un-attached to the either/or thoughts that immobilize us, and recognizing them for the limiting beliefs they are.
In fashion, it’s often said that this color or that color is the “new black”. In life, the key to happiness is replacing black/white with the best of both — to live in the shades of gray that are truly flattering.