Binary thinking and its discontents

Complexity riles and rattles us. There is a lot on, right now, were we to actually look. Bit much maybe. So we try and tame it by shoving it into big, chunky options. It makes us feel like we have a better handle on things. We like that control, it makes us safer and makes us look more “together”. Which one do you want? A? Or B?

This control is, of course, an illusion. It also has some serious downsides:

Binary thinking flattens and cheapens the discussion. We go with the asphalted straight road for convenience. We can move faster that way and the direction is clear. And we lose the undulating landscape that is actually there, and that carries all that context and information. The place where stuff grows and things emerge and dissolve and band and disband. Speed isn’t everything.

Binary thinking thrives on polarity. If you are not for something, you surely must be against it. There is nowhere else to put you in that mindset. If you spend any time on twitter, you see where that leads us, and how much fuel that adds to the fire. This invites zero-sum thinking and point-scoring. If I win, you lose where things are finite, or scarcity rules.

Binary options crowd out the space, smaller options don’t get a word in edgeways. The noise and posturing is deafening. We lose all of those voices and insights that way. I always preferred the pragmatic conversations of multi-party coalitions like in German politics over the posturing of two political parties that own the space wholesale.

Yes, decisions are important, particularly during emergencies. But where we can, let’s keep the space open for longer, and allow space. That space is where new things come from. We need those ideas and we need those voices in the room.

This is part of a series, and we will get more into what to do in future posts. For more ideas and a few personal stories in that space, check out my TEDx talk.

Coaching vs Therapy

What’s what? And why does the distinction matter?

There are lots of ways to get help. And asking for help is a good thing.

Therapy is a healthcare-type of intervention, and is typically regulated in a similar way as other ways of providing medical help. Practitioners have minimum training requirements, pass a state exam and have clear rules and regulations how, when where and in which areas to practice, and when to hand over. Therapy might be funded by the healthcare system, insurance, through a charity or occasional programs via an employer, or directly by the individual.

Coaching is largely unregulated. Coaches are qualified (or not), they might have gotten formal training (or not), their training might have featured mental health issues or boundaries between therapy and coaching (or not). Professional bodies help somewhat, but it is nowhere near as stringent as other professions. Coaching is typically funded by an organization or the individual, or occasionally comes with other programs.

Here is an overview I recently created:

Overview I created for a webinar recently

to download here.

And here is a more “colloquial” visualization.

Quick visualization for a recent conversation with the fab Edith

Look after yourself. In times of crisis, go to A&E or call your local emergency number, or the Samaritans.

The BIG to do list

We have a lot going on, as humans, right now. Climate change, social divides, increasing wealth gap… We do have a fairly large team to work on this though, 7+ billion people and counting…

So, what to do and where to start?

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are a good place to start. This has been called “the world’s to do list” and that’s what it is. The big key issues.

Have a look:

The Sustainable Development Goals

Some of these might resonate more with you than others. Some of these might be areas you are already active in. That’s great. Start with that. You don’t have to cover all of them, and not all by yourself. Pick a topic and make a start. Make this part of your work, or find other ways to support this.


If you are looking for help to align your life better with your values, check out my book “Values-based – career and life changes that make sense” or ping me for a chat.

The other bio

I recently ran a session on “showing up” for a network of Business Analysts. We talked about what we show, what we hide and how we hide it. (I’ll write more about it later)
The recording of the session is here.

We all look confident, well-educated and streamlined on LinkedIn. We probably also have another bio, the one that covers milestones of a different nature. Not always glorious, and always key to who and how and where we are.

Here is a snippet of mine (I shared in the webinar).

(from the signup page of the webinar)

What’s in yours? How did it shape you? What have you learned?

Fancy a chat? The coaching shop is open.