THE BLOG

The Third Option: More Than Both Having and Eating Cake

05/29/2015 10:55 am ET | Updated May 29, 2016

I love my thinking to be provoked as much as I love to provoke thinking, so in that spirit, I offer up a few ideas for conversation -- about cake. (You're intrigued, I know.) As a child, when I was told I "could not have my cake and eat it too," I had an indignant response. (See? Cake.) I've always believed in "this AND that" more than "this OR that."

When making a decision, it often feels like there are only two options. In less thoughtful moments, I have chosen based only on the options presented, but in more thoughtful moments, I have come to understand a third option.

"All-or-nothing" and "this-OR-that" thinking creates a rigidity that can seep into all areas of our minds. We find comfort and simplicity in quickly categorizing the world around us as good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable, worthy or unworthy. More than not getting to have OR eat cake (chocolate, no doubt), we run the risk of oversimplifying our world, and missing out on much of life's richness, which can only exist when we make peace with paradox. Grace-filled moments and new understanding, relationships, and opportunities are part of exploring a third option... "this AND."

Can I fundamentally disagree with someone without alienating them and even show them love? Yes. Can I be equally committed to rules as I am to freedom? Yes. Can I be generous and frugal? Yes. Can I stay in a less than ideal situation and choose to navigate it differently rather than assuming the only options is to quit? Yes. While I can't commit to X, Y, and Z, can I at least do Y and part of Z? Probably, if I'm willing to get creative. Can I like some qualities in both candidates for president? Yes. Although there are life realities where only one choice is possible (like in voting for president), when we resist the urge to reduce our thinking to binary philosophies, we can see new worlds of possibility. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." I would argue you can do more than function -- you can thrive.

What life paradoxes or examples of "this AND that" have enabled you to thrive?