No Shades of Gray

Last week, I dropped a classic piece of parenting wisdom on my 8-year-old daughter: “If you don’t study for your test, you won’t get into a good college, and you’ll never get the job you want when you’re older.”


Judge away. It happened during the chaos of third grade geography test prep when my daughter’s non-existent study session took a detour into coloring.


Let’s face it; we all fall into the trap of binary thinking—seeing things as black or white, success or disaster. It’s those moments of stress that trigger our monkey-brain minds to focus on extremes, missing out on the gray zone, where the possibilities exist in between.


You may find yourself in these moments when parenting, when considering saying yes to a new project or job, or when preparing to have a tough conversation. It’s when we’re stressed by the situation that we succumb to “it’s this or it’s that” rationales.


So, how do we break free from this pattern and approach challenges with innovation and calm?


Here are some starting points:


Embrace Mindful Awareness:


Notice your thought patterns. Are you stuck in black and white thinking?


Challenge Assumptions:


Dig into the beliefs driving your concerns. Are they valid, or is there room for flexibility?


Seek Diverse Perspectives:


Explore alternative views and find the middle ground. Not everything is an either/or scenario.


Identify Truths


Evaluate worst-case scenarios. Are they realistic, or is there a more balanced perspective?


Sure, my parenting comment wasn’t the pinnacle of wisdom. In hindsight, I could’ve used my own executive and leadership coaching tools more effectively. The truth is, it’s challenging to stay objective, even for someone in my line of work. But awareness is key.


Next time, I’ll dial it down, focus on her strengths, and save the study habit discussion for a more receptive moment. I learned my lesson. 

Oh, and for the record, she aced the test.

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