We are born ‘sorters’. We constantly make decisions about what is good or bad, dangerous or safe. Maybe it is part of our evolutionary process, stemming from our time back on the savannah when making choices was critical to our survival.
We are born ‘sorters’. We constantly make decisions about what is
good or bad, dangerous or safe. Maybe it is part of our evolutionary
process, stemming from our time back on the savannah when making choices
was critical to our survival.
We also like our decision making process to be quick and easy. American
life coach, columnist and author, Martha Beck, wrote in Oprah’s O
magazine that, rather than figure out which snakes are poisonous and
which ones are not, it is more convenient for us to simply fear all
snakes. Beck believes that we have carried this simplified approach view
of the world over into our very complex, nuanced, modern life.
Duality of the Workplace
A colleague and I recently presented at a university leadership
conference on bringing duality into wholeness. Our premise was that it
is time to quit sorting the leaders from the followers. We can’t
consider them as separate or dual because in reality, they are both part
of the same. Leaders and followers work together as one and neither can
exist without the other.
At a break-out session, we were divided in to groups from oldest (I
prefer to say most experienced) to youngest. Each group was asked to
define their attitudes to work.
Our group, which was comprised of those aged 55 and over, said we “live
to work.” The youngest group, who were 25 years and younger, said that
they “work to live.”
Within a few short hours of presenting on the topic, I witnessed the
duality in the workforce. Is it possible that both the older group and
the younger group are right? I think so. We need dedication to our
organizations to drive them forward but we also need to take the time to
nurture ourselves as individuals as well.
The Duality Lurking Within
I saw more evidence of our duality of thinking in the shocking news
about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the 62-year-old chief of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), who was arrested after being accused of sexually
assaulting a 32-year-old maid in his hotel room in New York.
Since then, a number of reports allege that Strauss-Kahn has a history
of taking liberties with women. My Facebook comments on the Strauss-Kahn
story attracted a comment from a friend whose uncle was a senior
economist at the IMF and had introduced her to Strauss-Kahn three years
ago. She found him charming, intelligent and eloquent.
So, did the wine turn to vinegar? Or are we talking about two separate bottles in the same crate?
I’ll be Back or Maybe Not
Maybe the same is true of serial philanderer, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He’s one part lion king and one part reptile. Perhaps Maria Shriver’s
married life was both wonderful and terrible at the same time.
The Dueling Boss
I experienced duality personally when I worked for a boss who was great
about creating a team atmosphere but he wanted the company to pay for
his fun. One day he was a sparkling wellspring of inspiration and the
next, he was an eye-rolling source of shame.
Two Goes into One How Many Times?
What we find is that the ‘Leaders of the Pack’ are, in fact, a
combination of opposing traits but, because our brains are trained for
duality, this is hard to understand.
It is certainly a mind-bender to consider that a man who allegedly
attacks a powerless hotel maid could also care about helping people in
the developing world. Most of us will still try to label him. For some
he’s a prince, to others, he’s a predator – allegedly.
My Big, Old, White Horse
I admit to pursing the duality of thinking. Even as a little girl, I
was guilty of “getting on my big, old, white horse” and virtuously
exclaiming the perfection my position while lamenting the evil of
When we limit ourselves to making “either/or” choices based on labels,
we limit our possibilities and reduce our accuracy. Breaking out of this
prehistoric mind-set comes from re-thinking dualities and connecting
your head and your heart.
Start by recognizing the places in your own life where you act out the
two opposing parts of yourself. You may be generally considerate, but
vulnerable to lapses of personal selfishness. You may act one way to
protect yourself and find that same behavior destroys you.
Half Right Answers
“Either/or” thinking removes us from reality. We spend a lot of time
weaving a story to buttress our position and looking for others to
fortify it. Evidence that doesn’t support our chosen position, we bury
in a big hole somewhere.
Those conclusions, decisions, actions based on either/or thinking says
life coach, Martha Beck, “will never feel truthful or satisfying because
they lead to answer that is only half right.”
Ask some Questions
To help with reconciling your thoughts, I recommend Byron Katie to you,
a woman who teaches people to end their suffering and has been
described as “a spiritual innovator for the new millennium.”
Katie suggests we investigate stressful thoughts by asking if the
thought is absolutely true. It likely isn’t. Next, allow yourself to
feel the emotions the thought produces. Examining the feelings and
images will get you out of your head and into your heart.
Finally, take the opposite position. For example, instead of saying,
“he is irresponsible,” say “he is responsible.” Look for examples to
demonstrate the latter. When you sink into your opposite thinking,
you’ll find that, in many cases, it feels more true than the original
thought you clung to so tightly.
What a great relief to see yourself and the world free of these
dualities and to see that both are right, both are true, and so am I.
After a highly successful career in business, including 26 years with
PotashCorp where she was Senior Vice-President, Betty-Ann retired in
2007, the same year that she was named to Canada‘s Most Powerful Women:
Top 100 Hall of Fame™. She now works as a speaker, author and mentor and
is committed to using her personal and professional experiences to
inspire and empower other women. A firm believer in the value women
bring to organizations, Betty-Ann explores changing perceptions of male
and female roles including candid observations about what she calls
"Good Gender Physics” on her blog at www.stillettochick.com.
She helps both men and women understand the primary energy of their
gender but also accept and appreciate the strengths of their opposite.