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Are You an Either/Or or a Both/And Thinker?

Which will best enable us to transition into the future?

· Either-or,Both-and,Transitions,Future thinking

The guts of the idea

Either/or thinking has served us well up till now. As a way of finding paths to transition into the future, both/and has more going for it. 



It’s understandable that we tend to think either/or.

  • At a macro level, when we lived in close-knit tribes, the ability to distinguish between friends and foes literally saved us from extinction and kept us safe. 
  • At a micro level, in every day life, it seems reasonably obvious that if we choose coffee, we don’t choose tea.
  • At the ‘folk lore’ level, we are very familiar with the line of thought, ’The world is divided into two groups: those that (fill in the blanks) and those that don’t (fill in the blanks). I would argue we have a deep affinity for the logic of this thinking. 

This worked well for us in the past when communication and mobility were limited.


We need to ask, Does this dichotomy continue to serve us?

In today’s world, we really do have ‘one world’ because we recognise that we are inter-connected in so many ways.

  • Environmentally, we are facing the extinction of many species and the realisation that because there really is a ‘chain of being’, when one species becomes extinct, this threatens the viability of other species that depended on it. We are realising, for example, just how dependent we are on insects to pollinate plants. 
  • Politically, it feels like we are transitioning from an either/or attachment to a two-party democratic model, e.g. Either Coalition or Labour; either Democrat or Republican, to more of a multi-party system with the rise of the independents. We are being ‘forced’ to contemplate ways to move forward that are more inclusive and rewarding for more of the population. 

Either/Or AND Both/And

So, while there is nothing wrong with either/or in many mundane matters - either my parcel will arrive today or it will not - seems to hold much greater potential when thinking about larger issues affecting the way we relate to each other.


I can have my likes, preferences, needs, wants and you can have yours. We can agree that we are each different and still have each other’s backs. We can agree even to enjoy the differences and to support each other as we explore these differences.


Take Away

Can you identify three places in your life where you could benefit yourself and those you love by letting go of either/or thinking and starting to explore the potential of both/and?


Till next time …