Binary thinking that ruins your life

April 21, 2014 by Joshua
in Awareness, Freedom, Leadership

Another coach emailed me about my posts about the bankrupt concepts of introversion and extroversion, which he described as

That binary thinking you highlight is the bane of my working life!

People who escape from that kind of thinking discover great freedom in their thoughts, which they usually use to create better lifestyles, relationships, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. They also find great tools to lead others. People who don’t escape from it tell you how wrong you are in thinking you don’t have to be so miserable. Bizarre thinking, but that’s what happens when you’re stuck thinking that way.

Anyway, I realized some of what I wrote could help people who read me regularly here.

I know what you mean about binary thinking. At some point I started learning about mental models, which I tend now just to call beliefs. People’s mental models of the world affect them more directly than the world itself does. Once they adopt a model that says things have to be one way or another, they act like they’re stuck in mental jails. With clients and students I try to help them see alternatives and create their own beliefs. Usually they see how to get out of one fixed perspective. Rarely do I see people able to generalize and learn the skill to see all beliefs as mental constructs they can reject and replace. Once you see it as a skill, you can improve it with practice and apply it everywhere. Very liberating.

Still, it’s weird when someone learns it in one area but can’t apply it elsewhere. They can’t find a way to distinguish a belief from reality. “Introversion” is one of the things people can’t get away from believing in. I feel like they’re so close to a skill to improve their lives more than they have before, but they may not see themselves that way. What we see as self-sabotage they see as the best course of action, not realizing they’re basing their decision on their belief, not the objective reality they think they are.

Then again, I expect I’m blind to beliefs I can’t distinguish from what I call reality too. I wonder what I’m missing too. Maybe people who seem to me to be missing out on things I value in life are enjoying their lives way more than I’m enjoying mine and I’m missing out on it. I don’t think that’s happening, but neither do they!

I hope that helps someone out there.

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