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There are times in our lives when we seemed to be faced with a fork in the road and can only travel down one path.
There are times in our lives when we seemed to be faced with a fork in the road and can only travel down one path. For example, “I can have a balanced life OR I can have prosperity.”
While we all have to make choices in our lives, many times it’s not the choice we think we’re being forced to make. Years ago, I heard of a concept described by author and business consultant James C. Collins called “The Tyranny of the OR.” This occurs when we believe we can do one thing OR the other, but not both. Someone who feels like they’re being pulled in too many directions, for instance, might tell themselves, “I can be a good husband OR I can be a good father.”
The truth is, Collins said, there’s a liberating strategy called “The Genius of the AND,” which is something my mentors have continued to share with me. By putting good habits and actions together and training ourselves to view things from a standpoint of prosperity and possibility rather than of scarcity, it’s possible to set aside this limiting belief. This allows us to achieve better goals with our time and energy.
To accomplish this, my mentors and I believe there are three keys to transform the “ORs” in our life into “ANDs”:
1. Ask the Right Questions
No matter how much you want to do, you only have 24 hours in the day. The key to breaking the “Tyranny of the OR” is to recognize that time is really one of very few possible limiting factors in our lives, and that the true answers to our questions lie in the questions we ask.
Do you want to get in better shape but believe you are having trouble finding the time because of your working hours? The “OR” isn’t “I can get in shape OR I can put in the time needed at work to build my income.” The answer, in most cases, is to get up an hour earlier so it becomes “I will get in shape AND I will excel at work.”
In this case, both sides of the equation could build upon each other. Getting in better shape will give you more energy to get more done. Getting rewarded at work will give you the positive feedback that lets you know your efforts are working. In any situation where you feel the “OR” tugging at your options, see if you can rephrase the question to “How will I do ___ AND ___?”
2. Set Priorities
This goes hand in hand with asking the right questions. When you decide what’s really important to you and your family at this particular moment in time, the steps you’ll need to take become clear.
Part of this is setting defined goals for yourself in the different areas of your life. If you’re just getting started in your career, for instance, you will have to spend more time at the job. So, does this mean “I can either build my career OR I can be a good parent”? No. What it means is you’ll have to plan ahead and guard the ways you spend your time and energy.
In this case, it means you’ll have to schedule quality time with your children AND commit to that schedule. It might mean “I can either build my career OR watch more television,” but when your priorities are clear in your mind, that’s not much of an “OR” to work around.
3. Streamline When Possible
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could multitask like a computer, working with full attention on several tasks and maximizing our efficiency? While that’s not how the human brain is wired, there are steps we can take to streamline our daily activities to get the most out of the day and turn our “ORs” into “ANDs.”
Looking to read more? If you have a commute to work, it’s an excellent time to listen to podcasts that will educate you and give you the right mindset to reach your goals. Same thing goes when you’re at the gym. “I can work out OR I can read a book”? Change “book” to “audiobook” and you’ve just changed “OR” to “AND.” While you are putting your body through its paces, you can train your mind at the same time.
Look at your daily activities through a lens of “AND” instead of “OR” and you’ll be surprised by how many things you can combine, refine or otherwise streamline.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of “having” to make choices about what we want to do or accomplish in our lives. Taking an honest look at ourselves, our work ethic and the choices truly in front of us, and then talking things over with a trusted mentor, allows us to take the power from the “Tyranny of the OR” and replace it with the “Genius of the AND.” Never forget that, with the proper focus, you will build the life you want AND be there for those you love.
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