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I recently met a woman who was considering a major career change. She’d worked in finance for three decades, but had always – always – wanted to do something more creative.

“The part where I get stuck,” she said to me, “is the money piece. Can I do something that I love, and be financially okay?”

Later that day, I had a different conversation, with a woman who’d just had her first child. She shared, “I’d always planned on being a full-time mom, but now I’m finding I don’t want to give up my work. But, can I be there for my kids in the way I want to, if I’m still working? I just don’t know if I can.”

Now, these two women live in different parts of the country. They are more than twenty years apart in age. One is worried about money. The other about balancing work and family. They’ve got very different lives and challenges going on.

But something was exactly the same about these two conversations, and about what these two women were struggling with – did you notice?

Each woman was asking herself:

Can I have both x and y?

They were each asking the question over and over again, to no avail, and suffering in their worry over it. Both of them were doubting the answer could be yes.

We all hold beliefs about two things we want that we think can’t coexist.

I can do work I love or I can be financially stable.
I can be a great mom or have a thrilling career.
I can eat whatever I want or I can be healthy.
I can take care of my own sanity or be tuned into world events.
I can be more authentic at work or I can work the politics.
I can say what I really think or I can continue to be liked by the group.

We get stressed and confined by these kinds of beliefs. And we torture ourselves with the repetitive, go-nowhere question, “Can I have both? Can I have both? Can I have both?”

So, here’s the practice for this week: change the question.

Instead of asking, “Can I have both?” ask yourself:

“How can I have both?”

That is a generative question. It takes for granted there is some way to have both, and gets your mind looking for creative solutions as to how.

That’s our simple practice for this week:

STEP 1: Notice one major either-or belief or worry you’ve got going on. For you maybe it’s about money vs. passion, or family vs. work, or adventure vs. stability.

STEP 2: Throughout the week, instead of living in the land of “Can I have both?” or “I can’t have both,” ask our new question: “How can I have (or do) both?”

Simmer on the answers.
See what ideas and images come.
Take a few minutes to brainstorm some thoughts on paper.

The question I’ll be working with for this week is “How can I be a present, involved mom and have an exciting, fulfilling, career? What could that look like for me?”

What either-or belief will you be working with?




photo credit: John Mark Arnold


Join the discussion One Comment

  • Rhiannon Beaubien says:

    “I can take care of my own sanity or be tuned into world events.”

    This is a great line and captures something I struggle with every day – how to be an engaged, compassionate citizen when reading the news terrifies me. Thanks for identifying this as part of life, it’s nice to know others go through the same thing.

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