“The heart of a human being is no different from the soul of heaven and earth. In your practice always keep in your thoughts the interaction of heaven and earth, water and fire, yin and yang.” - Morihei Ueshiba
With information overload on steroids, we are confronted with dozens of choices daily. It’s easy to understand why we get stuck in indecision, unable to choose for fear of making the wrong decision among the wide array of options. If we allow, we can move into the ebb and flow of living, moving from one end to the next and back again with ease.
The Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang denotes the dualism of seemingly opposite or contrary forces being interconnected and interdependent. So rather an “either/or”, it’s becomes “either/and.”
When we look at how opposite ends relate and come together, we discover the depth and dimension of our daily decisions, which make up the whole of our life. Politics would improve dramatically and problems actually solved if we listened to each other with civil conversations to better understand different perspectives and actually entertain that the answers may be right in the middle.
Both divergent and convergent thinking have their role in helping us move from ideas to execution. We can get stuck in divergence with a long list of ideas and never go through the funnel of discernment to convergence, transforming ideas into action. As in yin-yang, it’s both and then back again. Spending enough time to entertain a variety of ideas, narrowing down, seeing patterns and moving to decisions and actions.
Anne Manning, Harvard University instructor shares the difference and the roles for using both divergent and convergent thinking. She denotes a third mode of thinking that incorporates both divergent and convergent thinking called lateral thinking which is “thinking outside the box.” We need new thinking and ideas AND we need to implement and execute on the array of ideas that we create.
Choosing can be difficult if there’s too much to choose from as well. Sheena Iyengar, Columbia Business School researcher and author of The Art of Choosing summarizes the problem of choice overload in her How to Make Choosing Easier Ted Talk.
“Over the past decade, we have observed three main negative consequences to offering people more and more choices. They're more likely to delay choosing – procrastinate even when it goes against their best self-interest. They're more likely to make worse choices -- worse financial choices, medical choices,” Iyengar says.
She offers four techniques to mitigate the problem of choice overload which often leads to inaction:
1. Cut - get rid of the extraneous alternatives;
2. Concretize -- make it real; understand the consequences associated with each choice;
3. Categorize -- we can handle more categories, less choices;
4. Condition for complexity – gradually increase complexity
There is no shortage of ideas, tools, concepts and information available to all of us. When we transform information through the lens of both divergence and convergence, the best action becomes obvious and clear. Take time to wander, cast a wide net and then pull it in to converge, prioritize, decide. Get to your 3 things today and start moving through the middle to the finish line.