When deciding what we want out of life, and where to put our energy and focus to achieving our goals, my mentors and I have found that we need to avoid a limiting concept called “The tyranny of the OR.”

This concept, described by author and business consultant James C. Collins, comes into play when people believe they must make a choice between what they consider to be two contradictory paths. “I can be an exceptional husband OR I can have an exceptional career,” for example. “I could be a good husband OR a good father.”

To avoid this, Collins went on to describe an extremely liberating strategy called “The Genius of the AND”. All of my mentors subscribe to this concept.

They have discovered and implemented the daily behaviors needed to have a balanced life AND create prosperity. They take the time to maintain and improve their health AND spend quality time with their families.

To accomplish this balance, my mentors and I believe there are three keys to transforming the “ORs” in our life into “ANDs”:

Ask better questions

Ultimately, no matter our goals or intentions, we only have 24 hours in the day. The key to breaking the “Tyranny of the OR” is to recognize that time is one of the few possible limiting factors in our lives; the true answers to our questions lie in the questions we ask.

Do you want to get in better shape but are having trouble finding the time because of your working hours? The “OR” isn’t “I can get in shape OR I can put in the time needed at work to build my income.” The answer, in most cases, is to get up an hour earlier so it becomes “I will get in shape AND I will excel at work.” In this case, both sides of the equation could build upon each other. Getting in better shape will give you increased energy to accomplish more. Being rewarded at work will give you the positive feedback that lets you know your efforts are working.

In any situation where you feel the “OR” tugging at your options, see if you can reframe the question and change it to “AND.”

Set your priorities

This goes along with asking the right questions. When you decide what’s really important to you and your family at this particular moment in time, the steps you’ll need to take become clear.

Part of this is setting defined goals for yourself in the different areas of your life. When you’re just getting started in your career, for instance, you will spend more time at the job. So, does this mean “I can either build my career OR I can be a good parent”? No. What it means is you’ll have to plan ahead and guard the ways you spend your time and energy. In this case, it means you’ll have to schedule quality, memorable time with your children and commit to that schedule. It might mean “I can either build my career OR watch more television,” but when your priorities are clear in your mind and written down on paper, that’s not much of an “OR” to workaround.

Streamline when possible

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could multitask like a computer, working with full attention on several tasks and maximizing our efficiency? While that’s not how the human brain is wired, there are steps we can take to streamline our daily actions, attitudes, and activities to get the most out of the day and turn our “ORs” into “ANDs.”

Looking to read more? If you have a commute to work, it’s an excellent time to listen to podcasts that will educate, engage and inspire you and give you the tools and mindset essential to reach your goals. It’s the same when you’re at the gym. “I can work out OR I can read a book”? Change “book” to “audiobook” and you’ve just changed “OR” to “AND.” While you are putting your body through its paces, you can train your mind at the same time.

Look at your daily activities through a lens of “AND” instead of “OR” and you’ll be surprised by how many things you can combine, refine or otherwise streamline.

Does the transformation from “OR” to “AND” happen overnight? No. It takes practice to reframe the biggest questions in our lives. Will it happen if we put in the proper time, extreme effort, and laser focus? Absolutely. We just need to keep that in mind before limiting ourselves to certain options, knowing that we could have it ALL.

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