Ep. 160 Black-and-white thinking


In this week’s podcast, Anna explores the idea of enjoying the journey as you are working towards your goals and the problems with black-and-white thinking.

When it comes to achieving our goals, one of the dangers of black-and-white is getting overwhelmed and caught up in one single idea of what you want and where you want to be.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

1:1 coaching and mentoring: If you’re looking for support in getting that all-important clarity on what it is that you want from the next stage of your career, let me help you do just that in an individual coaching programme. www.onestepoutside.com/coaching

Black-and-white thinking


Hello. Hello. And welcome back to the Reimagining Success podcast. I am your host, Anna Lundberg and I’m building today on last week’s episode. So, if you haven’t listened to that one, I’d encourage you to go back and do just that. We were talking about enjoying the journey. Yes. It’s the J word, enjoying the process of getting to our goals and not just the goal itself. Because actually achieving a goal is just a moment in time. Right? Then what? Whether you’ve just reached a 10K level of running as I’ve done, whether you’ve got a certain amount of income, hooray, but then now what? Right. You have to maintain that level. You’re probably going to raise the bar. So you’re never going to get to an end point where you’re satisfied.

In the meantime, we want to be enjoying the process, we want to remember why we set this goal in the first place, why we created this business, let’s say, why we’re working towards these goals, and make time for that, create space for that in the process.

Now, building on that topic of enjoying the journey, I wanted to talk today about the danger of black and white thinking. So, again, we talked about, it’s not just the goal, it’s the process of getting there. It’s learning. It’s experiencing. Now the idea of black and white thinking is something I come across a lot. And as a few examples, I’m either in this soul sucking corporate job over here that pays me a lot of money but doesn’t give me work, life balance, et cetera, or I’m all the way over there, living the amazing dream, whatever, doing incredible creative work but not earning any money.

By the way, that could be one extreme or it could be, oh, I’m living this fantasy of drinking cocktails on the beach, et cetera. Right? So there’s the two extreme lifestyles. Or I’m either living here in the cold, dark, grey city in Northern Europe, or I’m living over there on the beach, again, right? Fiji, New Zealand, Hawaii, whatever your dream happens to be, maybe you share similar dreams to me or maybe you’re lucky enough to be living in those countries already. Or, I’m either over here not being creative, I’m not writing, I’m just doing my PowerPoints and emails and whatever. Or, I maybe there being a bestselling author, writing books and books that are on the New York Times Best Seller list, winning awards, incredible signing copies, et cetera.

Okay. Now what’s the problem? What’s the issue with this? Well, first of all, that big, huge, grand goal over there is so overwhelming, it’s so far away, so far off from where we are today that it’s very easy just to give up without even trying. Right? So the idea of being a bestselling author, I’ve never written a word in my life. I’ve never pitched a book to anyone. I’ve never written a blog post. How on earth would I ever get to bestselling author status? Right. Or, all I’ve ever known is this corporate full-time job. I’m not entrepreneurial. How on earth would I start building my own business? I live over here or my family is here. Would my partner want to move? How do we do it with a kid, et cetera, cetera, going all the way over there.

Not only is it overwhelming, it might not even be truly what we want. Because it could be swinging the pendulum too far to the other side.

It could just be that idealistic, theoretical, vague, nebulous dream that we haven’t really broken down and thought about. Do we actually want to go there? And actually something that comes to mind now is, your childhood dreams of, for me, it was being an astronaut, let’s say. And as soon as I think about it now, I know having learned more about it, that my claustrophobia would not be so good. The whole being sort of almost like a human experiment, all the medical stuff that goes on, having everything scrutinised, so many things about it. Not so good for me, I think, and not to mention the fact that I’m not qualified and so on.

The other dream was acting. But I don’t think at any point I really wanted to move to Hollywood and hustle away, be an actress until I made it in Hollywood. There’s a rose tinted view of what that could mean. It’s all glamorous. I never really, I sort of half-heartedly read the stage pay Prince, and when I was young growing I wanted to go to auditions, I used to circle them, and I never did. So, my own fault I’m entirely to blame for not taking that dream seriously and going there. But it was too extreme. Right? In the case of the acting, or I should leave this for a moment. But in the case of the acting, what I ended up doing was doing lots of amateur drama first at school, and then actually alongside my corporate job. I did that for several years.

I started out being one of many in the chorus in a pantomime. And ultimately I was the lead fairy in the pantomime. I was in Chicago. I had an amazing lead role in a play as well. And my best moment ever, I’ve totally gone off [inaudible 00:04:40] my best moment ever possibly in my life was when we did the bows at the end and someone brought me flowers on the stage and I really felt like, wow, I’ve made it, I’m like a western star. But there you go. I digress. The point is, this overwhelming grand idealistic dream might not even be exactly what we want. Right. That was the point I was making. And finally, it does mean a massive change, a transformation, and a huge amount of effort that we need to be putting in. Right?

We have to take big risks. It’s a huge leap of faith. I have to give lots of things up to move to the other side of the world, to quit my job, to write 100,000 words, to pitch the book to 50 different publications or publishers and so on. Right?

So it’s overwhelming. It might not even be what we want. So we put all the effort in for the wrong thing. And it is a huge amount of effort. It’s very risky. And ah, how is that ever going to happen? So, what is the alternative to the either/or scenario? Well, I want you to understand there are so many nuances, so many colours of the rainbow, so many shades of grey between black and white.

And in fact, there are two ways to get closer to your dream. If we simplify this, if we break it down. One is to take little steps towards the dream. And the other is to bring elements of the dream to you. So taking steps towards the dream is, okay, I’m going to work towards that goal. It’s going to take a long time. I don’t know, I’ll do acting classes. I will audition for things. And I’ll start small bit parts a bit, like I suppose I did with my amateur drama that I just shared with you. I took singing lessons to work on my voice because I was a better actress, still am than a singer. And so there are things I can do to move towards that dream of potentially moving to LA and being an actress if that’s what I want to do.

The other way is to bring elements of the dream to me. Okay. Actually, I don’t necessarily want to become an actress full-time, but what I’ll do is I’ll find ways to channel that energy I suppose now, and it could be acting as a hobby. So that would be one way to make that dream real today. Or it could be, and I’ve talked about this before in the podcast if you’ve listened to me before, being on the podcast right now. Presenting on stage, teaching, that’s an avenue for me almost as an actress to speak to you, I’m not playing a role as such, but I’m certainly engaging with an audience. I’ve got a bit of attention on me. There are aspects that are related to the kind of acting elements that I enjoy.

So, two ways to get closer to dream. One, is to take steps towards the dream, get closer by working towards that dream. I don’t know if I want to be an astronaut. I would’ve, I don’t know, flown the, what are they called? The jet fighter pilot things, whatever, that you would’ve flown back in the day. That was one of the key goals. I would’ve studied astrophysics. I would’ve, whatever, right? There are some steps you can take towards, or you can bring elements of that dream to you today. As another example to make this a bit more concrete, I want to live by the sea. So, again, I mentioned that dream of Hawaii, San Francisco. Now, for me, I’ve realised this in a couple of different ways to make this really tangible.

First, I think it was back when I was in fact studying for my coaching, 2014, 2015, I booked a trip. I was young. I was single. I had money. My savings from my corporate job. And I booked a trip, and my consulting, in fact, I booked a trip and spent a month in San Francisco and then a month in Hawaii. So that’s one way. Right? You don’t necessarily have to move, completely sell your house, give everything up and uptake to the other end of the world. You could try going on holiday there and see if you like it. So that’s pretty good, because maybe you don’t. Right? Maybe it doesn’t live up to what you think it does.

Second, I now live on the south coast of England. I go for runs along the coast several times a week. I’m walking along the beach to get to the local Tesco, the grocery store. So, again, for me, there were those two ways to bring the dream closer, visiting, doing a shorter stay by the sea. And that could have been a continuous thing that I did. I then went to Seattle the next year, I think. I spent time in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia. The second way was to find a closer alternative. And it’s not about settling for less. And I want that to be clear. It’s about making the dream more achievable. So, for me, for my partner, for Luke, for our kids, for our entire families really, it would’ve been a huge decision for us as a family unit to leave our friends and family to move to the other side of the world.

And instead we found a solution that was actually pretty easy and happened quite quickly, once we decided, that gives us the life by the sea with proximity still to the people we love. And so it was an easy decision, same country. And, again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t move to another country. I’m just saying for us, with [inaudible 00:09:29] kids, with our loved ones, we are really close to our family here. And in fact, we have family down here in Dorset, and we are close to my parents still, at least in the same country as my sister and so on, and close to Sweden where the rest of my family and friends are and so on. And Geneva, I have friends in Geneva. So moving to America, moving to Hawaii, moving to New Zealand, would’ve been a huge decision to give a lot of up.

The other example that I always give is writing. Right? I want to be a bestselling author. Okay. How are you going to get there? Well, you’re going to write. You’re going to write in your journal. It doesn’t even have to be seen by anyone. You’re getting better by writing. You can take writing courses. I did a lot of creative writing courses. I did a journalist degree. I called it a degree. I don’t think it was a full degree, but certainly a two year course. It was a comprehensive course. Blog posts, pitch publications, write, self-publish your book for goodness sake. If you’re not writing, if you’re not proposing pitching, then you’re not trying. Right? You’re not ever going to get there.

So rather than have that idealistic, vague dream over on there on the shelf and look up at it now and then going to think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if…” We’re going to take it down, break it apart, and actually get going and start writing. Now I have several books that I published. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of blog posts written. I’m successfully now pitching publications at the moment and getting articles published and so on. And so, no, maybe my books aren’t on the best seller list and in the New York Times, whatever. Maybe I haven’t won a Pulitzer, that hasn’t been my goal, but I am a writer. And I hope to be more successful and to make a bigger contribution in the future.

So, again, remember, there are so many nuances between not writing at all and being one of the most famous authors in the world. By the way, let’s take another example, being a speaker. We all want to stand, or maybe we don’t, but some of us want to stand on a massive stage, TED talk stage, be viewed by millions of people. But if you know Brene Brown, I read one of her many books recently. I think it was Daring Greatly, where she talked about her experience of being really reluctant to share initially her TEDx talk, which was a small talk. And then it got put on the main page of TED. And of course, has been viewed by millions as one of the top videos ever. And she’s a hugely successful speaker and author and so on.

And she was devastated, she shares, when it got shared onto this big platform. Because she wanted to stay small and it was such a big thing. And of course, it really tested her thesis, and suddenly people were talking about it, and it’s almost having that fear of success. Right? So we kind of dream of that success, but then we don’t understand what it means concretely. And secondly, these people have taken years to get there. I just talked about Dorie Clark, a moment ago, she shares in her latest book, The Long Game, that it took her five years to write hundreds of articles on Forbes, to pitch to different places, to have an agent who dumped her because she didn’t get any books picked up by any publishers, to ultimately get her first book published. And since then, she’s built her seven figure business, she’s got several books, and she’s got a huge platform out there.

But she would never have got there if she’d gone, “Oh, I’m going to be a hugely successful author. Okay. That doesn’t work out. Okay. I’m going to give up. Right. There’s no point. Oh, the publishers said no to my book. Oh, well, don’t, burst that, I’ll go back to do something else.” Right? I mean, the famous example is JK Rowling who pitched how many publishers said no before someone finally took Harry Potter. So there are so, so many shades of grey, multi-coloured rainbow shades between black and white. You can get closer to your dream by taking steps in that direction. And coming back to the last week of enjoying the journey. Right? That’s what we talked about in last week’s episode. Enjoy that process. It’s not that suddenly when your book is published, yes, again, I enjoyed that moment. I did a little selfie video. People said “Congratulations. That’s amazing.” But then life goes on.

You have to write another book. You can’t live on that book you wrote three, four years ago the rest of your life. So take steps towards the dream and enjoy that journey, first of all. And secondly, think of ways in which you can bring elements of that dream into your life today. If you’re dreaming of only working four days a week, well, why not try by taking one Friday off this month? If you’re dreaming of living by the sea, then why not go down take the family to the sea this weekend and see how that goes, or whatever that big unrealistic impossible dream is. If you want to start a business with your little creative hobby craft that you’re doing. Right? Well, create a few things and put them up on Etsy or sell them to your friend, just start small. Everybody starts small. And you’ll find that you enjoy that process. And if you don’t, Hey, you won’t have wasted time in working for years and years and years on something that actually isn’t something you want to do.

So, again, please, please, please stop that black and white thinking. Don’t think it’s either this or that.

I’m either over here really unhappy and doing this one thing or I’m over there living a dream. Yes. Maybe we want to get to the dream, and yes, definitely, we can get to that dream if it is a true dream, if we really do work towards it and get the support we need and so on. But in the meantime, let’s look at the steps along the way and enjoy that process. Another example that comes to mind is, of course, thinking of my process of leaving my corporate work. And the initial thing I landed on was doing digital marketing consulting. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was with that at the time. And I look back on it fondly. I earned as much, if not more than I had in my corporate job.

I wasn’t dragged in as much in the office politics because I was there temporarily. I was autonomous. And, yes, I worked with somebody internally but I was an external consultant. I did my X number of months, and then I headed off travelling in between. Right? And that was incredible. So different to the experience of showing up day in, day out, having a boss and so on in the office in a full-time job. Now, that wasn’t the ultimate dream as it turned out, but it was a hell of a good step to take and gave me so much more freedom and autonomy. And again, even income to some extent than I had had it before. And again, the coaching work I’m doing now, and when I first started, I was still doing some digital marketing consulting and so on, but I was shifting in the direction of doing more.

So, again, optimising for interesting, shifting the balance, even just doing 10% of what you really love doing 90% of the other stuff. Try to increase that to 15%, 20% next time, more time, more energy, more focus on getting to that dream. And it’s that process that we’re enjoying. So I hope that was another valuable episode for you. Next week is an Ask Anna episode, where I’m asking the question, what if I don’t know what I want? Because we’re talking about, okay, we have to put the what before the how, we have to work towards this goal, enjoy the process, et cetera, et cetera, to get what we want. But what if I don’t know what I want? So that’s what we talk about next week. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you then. Bye for now.

If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

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Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

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