How breaking away from extremities opens up immense possibilities.
As kids, we are brought up to believe in the existence of black and white. There’s good, and there’s bad. Right and wrong. Angels and demons. Gods and, well, not gods. We are brought up to believe in a certain dichotomy of the universe, and we grow up believing in the ubiquity of this duality.
By the time we are actively conscious, which is when we start thinking for ourselves, our worldview has formed around this supposed duality. We start thinking about everything in terms of good and bad. The moment we have a new experience, we rush to classify them into either of these buckets. People, experiences, actions — they can either be right, or wrong. Rarely is there something in between.
A direct result of this is we start thinking in terms of extremes. We fail to acknowledge the continuum that permeates our existence and start believing in discrete functions. It becomes impossible to imagine there’s any other option apart from believing in God or not, for example. We think we fall into either of these buckets: rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, beautiful or ugly, happy or unhappy.
Most importantly, we think there are only two ways of following an ideology — to follow it completely, or not follow it at all. We quickly associate these two options with, you guessed it, right and wrong. And the gavel of judgment bangs.
Turns out, this approach of looking at things in either black or white is incredibly prohibitive on our abilities and the possibilities of what we can do. The mental block of trying to either follow something completely or not at all is exhausting and not very productive. It hinders our ability to improvise and forces us to think in discrete values instead of fluidity. There is a whole world of possibilities in the grey.
If we break away from the compulsion of either following or not follow something in its entirety, we suddenly have a lot of room to grow. Amidst two choices of doing something, it’s possible to carve out a third solution which can possibly take the best parts of either of the two extremities.
Once we’re at peace with not following any extremities, we get to see how liberating that is. After that, it’s very easy to get used to this balance. That feeling, as I’ve personally experienced, is life-transforming.
In our everyday lives — personal and professional, we face these kinds of choices in plenty. Every once in a while, when taking a decision, two prominent choices will present themselves, possibly among many others. Naturally, and intuitively, your mind will rush to classify them as right and wrong, inevitably implying that one of them is the one you should choose and not the other one.
But next time that happens, pause and think — what if none of them is right or wrong? If you come to terms with that fact, it becomes easy to find your right choice that aligns with your principles.
That, I will argue, is a pretty good way of living our lives.