I’ve been thinking lately about how binary I can often be. There are days when despite what I believe about balance, I feel either wildly successful or like a pitiful loser; either ready to trial-run the Comrades Marathon or too flat to pick up the phone, often without allowing myself access to any of the stages in-between. Days when I’ve reached some goals feel awesome whereas days when I have not, just suck.
That the emotionality of a situation can have me thinking in extremes – good or bad, lucky or unlucky, brilliant or utterly stupid – even though I know there are many potential alternatives lying starkly between them, is a source of some irritation and shame to me.
But I had no idea until recently just how much pressure it has been putting me under.
Perhaps you know how it can go: You’re no longer enjoying your job so your choices are to either resign and seek fulfilment elsewhere or drag yourself into the office every day. You’re not getting on with your girlfriend or boyfriend so your choices are to either call an end to it or grimly bite your tongue and accept it. You’re out in the world pursuing an entrepreneurial dream and it’s leading you into financial discomfort so your choices are to either pull up the handbrake or risk certain doom.
It irks me that no matter how old I get, I’m still just one emotional spike away from binary thinking. Especially since I know from experience that this is not an all-in or all-out world.
And especially since when I realised some years ago that my opening response to anything new was to look for how it was challenging, threatening or demanding of a response I’m disinclined to give, I made a conscious effort to change so that I now ask: what’s likely to be the best thing about this?
But doing that merely requires a reflexive shift from one emotional spike to another, which is surprisingly simple. What is proving more challenging is figuring out when the heat is on, how to actively embrace the mundane, less-emotional responses that offer alternative pathways from between every rock and every hard place.
Because my God can I waste a lot of time otherwise.