"Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries." – Carl Gustav Jung
Quick – a quiz! Which one is more important?
Individual needs OR team needs?
Focusing on getting tasks done OR working relationships?
Professional life OR home life?
Godzilla OR King-Kong? (OK, just kidding there!)
Choices are part of life. From the time we are young, we are trained to look for "the" answer to life's choices and problems: it's this one or that one.
But as we mature we usually find that life is not always so cleanly cut into either/or choices.
So, in questions of choosing between individual or team, tasks or relationships, work or home, the answer is more often, "yes", or "it depends".
In fact, often what we are being asked to choose between are two seemingly opposing, competing or contradictory poles, viewpoints or options. We get stuck on the horns of what feels like an unsolvable paradox.
But what if you didn't have to choose?
In fact, what if the most difficult, chronic issues – these ones that feel so palpable – actually weren't solvable?
Take a very relevant and life-sustaining paradox: breathing.
We breathe in; we breathe out. Ideally, we do these two things frequently.
Do you prefer one over the other? Is one better than the other?
Choosing inhaling OR exhaling isn't really a long term solution to the issue of breathing: it's actually unsustainable! We need both to live.
These types of pairs – also known as polarities – aren't new: they are actually the stuff both of myth and history, and in our own lives.
Instead of seeing these type of issues as problems to solve, seeing them as co-existing pairs that are linked allows us to harness and leverage the upsides of both.
Rather than thinking of issues from an "either/or" perspective (which sometimes is more appropriate) what happens if you can see the issue from the stance of "and"?
If you find yourself or your team stuck in an endless loop that seems unsolvable, try this:
1) What's the problem you're trying to solve? What are you frustrated, angry, sad or ambivalent about?
2) What's the way you want it to be?
3) What do you fear will happen if you don't get what you want?
4) What's something good about about the way it's been (currently or in the past) that you'd want to retain in the future?
5) What shared values are inherent in your answers to #2 and #4?
6) What higher purpose do these values point towards? What opportunity for alignment exists?
In the comments below, I'd love to hear from you on this topic! Tell me:
– What polarities exist in your own life or work?
– What happens when you use the steps above to leverage the polarity rather than try to solve it as a problem?
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