CBA Record July-August 2021
Y O U N G L A W Y E R S J O U R N A L
new. Moving out of binary thinking is neither a compromise nor a fix. It involves creating a whole new framework to apply to the world. Binary thinking is often referred to as “black and white” thinking. Most people will try to move beyond the binary by going with grey (compromise) or color (a fix). It is true that if you practiced grey or color you might see more options, or experience more nuance to a situa- tion, but ultimately, you are still in the same framework, searching for the right answer. To move beyond binary thinking, you have to remove yourself from the framework altogether. Shifting frameworks is not easy. Each of us relies on tried-and-true ways to think about things because they are, more or less, helpful. At the same time, anyone can create a new framework if they want to – but it takes practice. When practice shifting your framework, you create a whole new experience. This does not mean that you will wake up tomorrow without any binary thinking. Rather, you will need to practice applying the new framework to the world every day in different ways to gain perspectives that you may have otherwise – by definition – overlooked. One way to escape binary thinking is to make yourself uncomfortable. Maybe this means you wear a leather catsuit for a while. Maybe it means that you take up a sport when you believe yourself to be unathletic. When I do this workshop with people in real life (and lately via Zoom), I ask people to practice writing jokes. Without fail, most adults look like I just asked them to get naked and tell me about their teenage years. Here is the thing with joke writing – there are tried and true formulas for being funny. A good joke requires connection and surprise. So, A + B = C is usually not super funny, mostly because we expect C. But A + B = N is often funny because the conclusion follows, it is just not what we expect. Exercise and Possibilities: Joke Writing
Once I explain this, I give people the fol- lowing formula: I like my ____________ like I like my ______________; [tagline explanation]. One example – I like my decisions like I like my dinners; made by somebody else. I ask people to use this formula to write jokes on the spot and share them with me. After a few minutes, the fear subsides and people take a swing at joke writing. My favorite thing about joke writing is that there is no right or wrong to a joke. Yes, some jokes are not funny, but there is not one joke that is the best joke. It is mostly outside of the binary. Even some- thing that one person deems unfunny can be funny to another person. At the end of the day, the perspective shift does not come from writing the best joke; it comes from simply learning that there is a new possibility. How to Recognize aNewFramework We have to let our brains do what is natural. First, come up with possible frameworks and then apply them to your situation. If the new possibilities do not fix the old framework, then try again. You know you have found a new framework when there is a feeling of
openness, and there is a sense that you can play with possibilities. If you can play, entertain, shape, and not be right, you have probably found a framework that is beyond the binary. From here, the challenge is to practice, to practice again, and – ultimately – to live into this new possibility. Some practices that help are visual cues, journaling, and telling other people what you have been up to as well as asking them to hold you accountable. But recognize: you will backslide. This new framework will not be perfect, and, at some point, it will also likely limit you in some way. It is important to remem- ber that you have a new muscle – you are practicing shifting your experience. You are not trying to find the perfect framework for the rest of your life. It is like walking and running on the beach: the sand is always shifting, but the more you practice, the more stable you feel.
Erin Conlon (erincon- lon.com), an attorney formerly in private practice, is an execu- tive coach and host of the podcast, This Is Not Advice.
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