Apparent good fortune has hidden threats and costs. Apparent bad fortune has hidden opportunities and benefits. Polarized thinking leaves us underprepared to manage risks and leads us to miss opportunities disguised as threats.
Canadians head to the polls soon to elect a leader and a government. This is one of the most fractious times in the history of the dominion, and people are polarized along a number of fault lines. Some are geographic, and others are demographic and economic. Millions of voices. Limited choices. One result. Some of us will be elated; others will be profoundly and militantly disappointed.
Polarity bias is the often not-conscious tendency to sort things into two groups.
I face dichotomies everyday: right or wrong, good or bad, positive or negative, us or them, friend or enemy, opportunity or threat, happy or sad (or mad). We are all the birth products of two genders, with bicameral minds, right and left brain hemispheres, stereoscopic vision, stereophonic hearing and usually two hands. Binary thinking. How we react to elections is no different.
The assignment into categories is very personal. Let me demonstrate. If I ask you whether it is better to give or take, what would you say? The knee-jerk answer is of course "to give" and it's highly likely that's what you thought. It's the prosocial answer. It's the white answer while "to take" is the black one.
The problem with polarity begins in the question. We face choices and those choices are usually among competing, but insufficient options. Consider this, if giving is morally superior to taking, and no one is taking, the givers are stuck with all the shit they have to give.
There is often value in both approaches and we usually lose value in the choosing.
My eldest kid never liked "or" questions. "Kyle would you like cake or ice cream?" He saw no reason to compromise–cake and ice cream go well together–so he almost always answered, "both". This the meaning of yin and yang. Asking which is better is like asking whether masculine is better than feminine or whether abundance is better than scarcity. My youngest Mars also figured this out early in life. "Or" gives us the opportunity to appreciate the differences in approaches but "and" gives us the opportunity to execute on the best parts of both. To me "integrity" is a white answer and balkanization the black one.
I once met a man diagnosed with stage IV testicular cancer. He told me upon hearing the news that he decided to "have fun with the cancer". A brave and unusual framing of an understandably horrifying development. He's now in complete remission and I'm sure you're as unsurprised learning that as I was. Mindset is not the only thing but it is a big thing. How is your current tragedy the best thing ever? Or alternatively, what's the unseen risk in your future windfall?
I know that the next government will create policies that will both cost and benefit me in someway. I can feel like a victim if "my party" doesn't win or I can embrace the idea that no matter what happens I am still an entrepreneur and my job is to wake up every morning make sales calls, serve clients and take care of myself and my family. Maybe that will be easier, maybe harder, but the job does not change. Opportunity or threat: it's not just some external condition. It's also my personal choice.
There are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide everything into two groups and the rest of you.