I’ve been thinking a lot about paradoxes. And, specifically, how we humans tend to pit concepts and ideas against one another when those concepts are in tension, often in an attempt to simplify the world. We create this “either/or” paradigm, even when the concepts don’t have to be opposing forces.
I’ll use something from my life as a concrete example. My teenage daughter has been struggling quite a bit with academic demands, learning loss as a result of the pandemic, the ending of a relationship, and general discontent with her social life. I have tremendous compassion for her and empathy for what she is going through. At the same time, she has been increasingly rebellious and disrespectful- ie. relating to curfew as a suggestion, rather than a rule. I have been on a pendulum of compassion and accountability, and my parenting has been reflective of me pinging back and forth between these two poles.
But what if they are not inherently in conflict? I explored this idea with my own coach recently. And I realized I was creating a state of opposition where there needn’t be one. Not only did this imaginary conflict create inconsistent parenting by me, but it also limited possibility. When we are in an either/or world, we narrow the field of what is possible. Conversely, when we hold space for the paradox and embrace a both/and mentality, we open ourselves up to more possibilities.
I realized in this conversation with my coach that I can have BOTH compassion for my daughter and her experiences AND continue to hold her accountable to family rules and boundaries and her responsibilities- and that these ideas are not really in conflict unless I make them so. How refreshing.
My coach then asked me a powerful question: How does creating space for these ideas to coexist help you as a coach? Mic. Drop. Coaches are in the possibility business. When clients come to us feeling stuck and/or feeling unable to see a path forward towards a goal or a dream, we work with them to open pathways to new results. So my own work in resolving an imagined either/or scenario (which then created confidence and new possibilities in my parenting and in my relationship with my daughter) is squarely on point in my transformational work with my own clients. And because I’m learning to live in the paradox, I can guide my clients to do the same.
Where are you creating either/or paradigms in your own life? What would be possible if you created both/and spaces instead?Tags: both/and, coach, Coaching, leadership, opportunity, paradoxes