Want to Think Clearly? Use Opposites

You have thoughts running around in your mind and you can't think clearly. You want clarity, but there are so many options to choose from. There is no way for you to filter information to help you make decisions in a simple, clear way.

For me, it becomes most challenging when my feelings are engaged or when I assume something is very complex.

You need a tool to help you simplify and clarify the options. So, you need to look at your options through the lens of "Opposites" or binary logic. Robert Fritz teaches this principle and calls it Digital Thinking. It helps you think clearly and enhance your focus.

Think Clearly

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:

  1. yes or no
  2. plus or minus
  3. true or false
  4. up or down
  5. good or bad

It is so much easier to be confused, when you do not accept that there is a “2” for your situation. When you stay between the true and false, instead of accepting that it is one or the other, expect confusion and rationalizing.

Without the clarity of a "2", you are more subjective about things like job performance. But, your performance is either good or it is bad. Or, you might want to use something like adequate or inadequate. Either option can help you think clearly and stop rationalizing your productivity.

When you use opposites, you create a structure that requires a definite answer, preferably “yes or no”. When you think clearly, truth and reality are easier to see and accept. 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 requires a clear 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, taking 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 with the 2 is that answering NO, then choosing Getting Better might help you ignore that higher performance is needed. If it isn't a rationalization, great, but be careful.

Help People Discover Clarity

You can help people discover solutions and think clearly without giving them advice when you use opposites.

Early in my career as a leadership and business coach, the CEO of one of my clients called 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 basically a list of excuses. So, I said, “I can appreciate that those things happen, we could talk about them, but right now it is important to know your answer to that question. 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”.

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. Within a few days, they quit.

It would be a much better story if they decided they wanted to become a 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 will still try. We won’t give up our bad thinking and replace it with clarity about our behavior or performance. It is time to think clearly about ourselves. Using a 2 will help.

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