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  • Writer's picturewabbate

Either/Or vs. Both/And

Let’s discuss something that can help us think more fully and deeply – changing the hard line we often draw when we see things as black or white. What about the numerous shades of gray? What if both sides of an issue are true?

If we think something is either this way or that, clear cut, with no other options, are we really seeing clearly? Perhaps, and perhaps not.

For example, can you work or not work and still make a living? Well, it depends, doesn’t it? Most of us are gainfully employed at some point in our lives—yet you don’t work all of the time, do you? There’s plenty of in-between time.

You can run into problems when you allow your work to consume your life. I’ve been there. During much of my career, I thought the businesses I worked in couldn’t get along without me giving 110 percent, all the time. I rarely took vacations, at the expense of spending time with my family.

Before I knew it, my daughter was off to college, and we were empty nesters. Wow, did that time go by too quickly! Looking back, I could have done things far differently. Yet what is past is past. We can’t change what was, however, we can learn valuable lessons from it.

One day, I had a wake-up call. The president of the company I worked for at the time was transferred back to the main HQ in Europe, and we kept in touch, as good friends do. He was a few years older than me.

One day, he said, “You know, Bill, all of the years I’ve worked and all of the sacrifices I’ve made, rarely taking my vacation time, I was losing time with my family. Not one person ever thanked me for being so dedicated.”

By then, I was reconsidering a lot of things in my life and realized that was true for me, too. All the years of sacrificing for my job at the expense of my family, and not one person had ever thanked me for my dedication or “sacrifice!”

In fact, no one had ever asked me or my friend to do what we did. We just assumed we had to do it, because that’s what others did. My assumption was directing my life. How wrong  I was!

I could have worked hard and taken time off to not work. I could have seen my work-life balance as both/and, rather than either/or. Either work or not, or both work and not. That simple change in my thinking set me on a new course.

What can you do when faced with an either/or type of situation? Ask a simple question: “Is this really a this-or-that, exclusively one or the other? Is it really a black-or-white situation?”

Then ask, “What could make it both of these, or a this-and-that situation?”

You will certainly find many opportunities to apply this question in life. Just remember, not everything is as clearly defined as it appears on the surface.

Take, for example, when you retire. Will you retire and not work anymore? Really? That is one way to look at it. But what if you took on a different view? What if you considered retiring as only doing what you want when it comes to work?

In that situation, you might not work at all—or you might decide, after some time, that you’d like to do a few things, as I have. I continue to coach because I enjoy helping other people—yet I tremendously enjoy being retired and the free schedule it allows me.

As I often say, “In retirement, every day is Saturday, except Sunday.” My work-life balance is now one of both/and, not either/or. I’ve proven to myself that you can have your cake and eat it too!

You can uncover more on this and other subjects in the book, Uncommon Sense, found a

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