A Non-Binary World

One of my early favorite jokes was “What’s black and white and read all over?” You have to hear it to really appreciate the silliness of it. The answer is “A newspaper.”, if you don’t remember this old, bad joke. Part of what I love about jokes is how they open you to so many choices — options and possibilities for solutions. I love having options!

Multiple solutions versus one solution. Do you live in a binary world with room for only one correct answer or way of doing something? Do you go with yes/no, in/out, black/white, my way/no way? I’ve learned there’s generally a lot between the two extremes.

I don’t remember exactly when I realized how my binary thinking was impacting me, keeping me stuck in situations I didn’t want to be stuck in. I used to think categorically there was a right and wrong way to every situation. The light started dawning on me along the way that there are indeed many ways to look at most situations and that the world isn’t black and white.

During a real estate Ethics class, we discussed the right and wrong actions of a knight toward a wayward princess, all based on a story we were told. There were several groups of thought and each group defended their position with passion. The class instructor let us rage on for a while before redirecting the conversation to the point, which was that there were several players in the story we debated, and they each had their role and consequence to their actions. Depending on whose perspective you favored, you had a different reaction to how the various players behaved. Aha! There wasn’t just one way of looking at that story.

Binary thinking introduces judgment into your life and mindset. I was on the receiving end of that observation when I was helping a friend many years ago with a big mailing project. One of my jobs was to build mailing boxes. My friend had a really different way of building them that I couldn’t master but I put the boxes together correctly in my own way. My friend kept correcting me, telling me I wasn’t doing it right. Binary thinking. I kept doing it my way because I understood the end result was what was important, not the method. We finished the project in good time.

On the giving end, I learned another valuable lesson. Friends of mine bought a new car that I had rejected buying for myself because I thought the quality was poor and it didn’t meet my needs. I was dumbfounded that they made that car choice — they seemed smarter than that, I thought. Fortunately, it was dawning on me that black-and-white thinking wasn’t working for me and I asked what drew them to that car. I learned their buying needs were different than mine. Go figure! Lesson learned. More shades of gray started entering my black-and-white world.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve changed my binary thinking is that part of what fueled my narrow thinking style was my internal fears — which became my projected realities. You can get stuck there. Ugly stuck. I was for too long.

I also learned that action moves you through those fears, out of that thinking pattern, and into peace. Action is magic to help your growth.

Binary thinking in my life kept peace at bay. Oh, I had a peaceful enough life, but peace wasn’t woven throughout my life. I guess the peace was a shell around my life, fooling me into thinking I was a peaceful person. Astute observers knew differently, though.

As I’ve expanded my thinking and opened my brain and heart to possibilities, my life has become richer, I’ve become more compassionate with myself and others, and peace weaves through more of my being and life. I’m well along the path of transforming my life from adequate to excellent. I’m less ambivalent than ever before. I’m more engaged than ever before.

A vibrant life is not lived in a binary world. Life for me is rich with possibilities and options. That’s a fabulous reality. I love options! It’s possible for you, too.

2 thoughts on “A Non-Binary World”

  1. Wonderful, thought-provoking article. My black-and-white way of thinking was pointed out to me about 25 years ago and I was astounded! Gray was all around me and I hadn’t been able to see it! I began to entertain different ways of thinking and allowing a non-binary point of view into my life (not that those were the words I used), Hardest of all is applying this to my own actions and thoughts and feelings. When you grow up with “right or wrong,” it is quite daunting to change to “good enough is good enough” and other similar, more realistic viewpoints. Thanks for getting me to think about this subject objectively!

  2. How lucky for you someone cared enough to point out your black-and-white thinking, A! It’s hard to see what we are familiar without help. I hope your life starts becoming technicolor, as you continue to grow from your black-and-white if it isn’t already.

    You have some great insights about how you are applying your lessons. Thanks for sharing!

    Glad you found this article valuable. Keep up the great work. And come back any time.

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