I was chatting with a coaching client yesterday about the difference between an “or” life and an “and” life.

The people that I know—artist, writers, musicians, coaches, therapists—are confronted on a daily basis with the question, “Should I do this today or this today or this today?”

For an artist, this might sound like, “Should I spend hours on that grant proposal which I probably have no chance of landing or spend time framing my paintings even though that always frustrates me (and costs so much money) or spend time on making some small things that might earn me some money or do the painting I really want to do (which also frustrates me, because I’m not positive I’ve landed on my real vision or voice yet) or one of the other hundred things I ought to be doing?”

This is an “or” life and an “or” point of view. This way of conceptualizing life is the opposite of energizing and often leads to blockage, procrastination, and extra frustration. You may find it hard to get out of bed to face all these “or” choices and questions and already sad at the beginning of your day because you are already grieving for the things you know you won’t be getting to.

What, by contrast, is an “and” life? It’s opting for the point of view that you are doing all of these things—this and that and the other thing—only calmly, in due time, without a lot of drama, in such a way that every day feels complete and rich and full of some meaningful work and also an array of necessary chores that, from an “and” point of view, are meaningful in their own right because they are in the service of an “and” life that is working.

It may not sound like a huge difference to wake up and say, “Today I am doing this and this and this” versus waking up and saying, “Today, should I do this or this or this?” Yet in practice it seems to make a huge difference. My clients who are living an “and” life get more done, do a better job of staying out of their own way, handle setbacks better, and sink into a low mood less often. Of course, their to-do list is never done: an “and” life doesn’t come with finished to-do lists. But it does come with the satisfaction of knowing that every day you have done a lot, including some of the most important things.

This distinction between an “or” life and an “and” life may not resonate for you or ring any bells. But if it does resonate, try the following simple thing today. Just say, “I think I’ll switch from an ‘or’ life to an ‘and’ life.” Just say that—and see what happens. If something good does happen, drop me a note at ericmaisel@hotmail.com and let me know!

Share This