You have thoughts running around in your mind and you are confused. Clear thinking isn't happening with so many options to consider. It seems impossible to filter the information so you can make a decision in a simple, clear way.
For me, those times become even more challenging when my feelings are engaged or when I assume something is very complex.
Actually, clear thinking is possible! There is a tool that helps you simplify and clarify options. You learn to see your options through the lens of "Opposites" or binary logic. Robert Fritz teaches this principle and calls it Digital Thinking. It helps you clarify and enhance your focus.
Use 2’s or Opposites
Everything in this world is changing, even if you can’t see it. So, if everything is changing, it is getting better or getting worse. Notice that statement gives you only two options to help you think clearly. That is what we call a “2” or an opposite.
Other examples are:
- yes or no
- plus or minus
- true or false
- up or down
- good or bad
Confusion is easy when you do not accept that there is a “2” for your situation. When you stay in the opinion world between true and false, expect confusion and rationalizing.
Clear thinking without using a "2", creates subjectivity. For example, consider your job performance. Here is reality - your performance is either good or it is bad. Or, use words like adequate or inadequate. Either option helps clear thinking about your performance. Without the "opposite" you more easily rationalize your productivity.
Opposites create a structure that requires a definite answer, preferably “yes or no”. Clear thinking helps you see and accept truth and reality. For example, is this choice good or bad? Am I willing to live with the consequences? Does my behavior match good values?
Each of those questions provides clariy with a yes or no.
Be careful to not rationalize your answer. It either fits transcendent values and principles or it doesn’t.
Sometimes Using a 3 Helps
You might agree that things are always changing - getting better or getting worse. But, what about the things that are changing very slowly? They don't appear to be changing at all, so wouldn't a term like "staying the same" help?
The idea of staying the same is only a figure of speech to help us make sense of what we perceive. For example, it is very difficult to determine if many things are are actually changing since the change is so slow. But, everything is decaying or disorganizing unless energy is being applied to it. That is one of our favorite physical laws - entropy or the second law of thermodynamics.
Actually, your favorite chair is rotting away, because no energy is being applied to it. Since it is happening so slowly, you might think it isn't changing at all.
All of that to say, if you want to add "Staying the Same" to a performance conversation, it can help. It would look like the thumbnail picture on the video above. So, take the first item on the chart...
- Meeting expectations? YES or NO: Getting Better, Staying the Same, Getting Worse
For that item, you would first select YES or NO. Then you would select one of the 3 other options - GB, SS, or GW - for the YES or NO.
You have 6 potential answers. So, pretend you answer YES, Getting Better. That could be used to drive more discussion on why the Getting Better was chosen.
The danger of using the 3 may reduce clear thinking. For example, say your answer with the 2 is NO, then you choose "Getting Better." Rationalization might encourage you to ignore that higher performance is needed. If it isn't a rationalization, great, but be careful.
Help People Discover Clarity
When you use opposites, you help people discover solutions and clear thinking without resorting to advice and suggestions.
Early in my career as a leadership and business coach, the CEO of one of my clients asked me to help with a difficult employee. The employee was not performing and was constantly using excuses about their poor performance. So, I arranged for a 1 on 1 visit with the person.
After talking briefly with the person, I asked, “How do you see your performance at work, is it adequate or inadequate?”
The employee's response was a list of excuses. So, I said, “I can appreciate that those things happen, we can talk about them, but right now it is important to know your answer to that question. I need clear thinking about your performance, so if you would please indulge me, how do you see your performance at work, is it adequate or inadequate?”
The Opposite Made the Difference
After another 5 minutes of complaints and excuses, I walked over to a whiteboard in the room and drew a horizontal line. Then I drew a vertical line in the middle of the horizontal one. On the left side of the vertical line I wrote “Inadequate” and on the right side “Adequate”.
Then I asked them to put an “X” on the horizontal line to represent their performance.
A number of minutes passed with them recounting excuses telling their history of work and how others were constantly creating problems for them. We talked briefly about a few of them.
Finally, I politely asked, “So, considering all that is going on, do you think your performance is adequate or inadequate?” The person stood up, walked over the board and put an “X” on the “Inadequate” side of the line.
Without badgering them or providing advice, they eventually got into reality about their performance. Clear thinking made a change and within a few days, they quit.
Sorry that the story did not end with their clear thinking turning them into high performer, but that didn’t happen. I hope that when you apply Opposites to your life, you choose to change and use great values!
Fighting with reality is a losing fight, but we continue the fight. We won’t give up our bad thinking and replace it with clarity about our behavior or performance. It is time for clear thinking about ourselves. Using a 2 will help.