Eric R. Maisel Ph.D.

Rethinking Mental Health

Day 25: Beginning to Live an 'And" Way of Life

Day 25 of 30 days to better mental health

Posted Jan 27, 2015

This series supports the free Future of Mental Health virtual conference I’m hosting from February 23 – 27, 2015. Please get your free ticket to the conference now by visiting https://www.entheos.com/The-Future-of-Mental-Health/Eric-Maisel. And plan to attend!

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day 25 of 30 days to better mental health

Each day in this series of 30 days to better mental health I want to propose one simple idea and one simple strategy in support of that idea. If you’d like to view other posts in this series, please visit here:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/eric-r-maisel-phd

You might like to ask a friend to join you for these 30 days. The two of you can chat about the ideas I’m presenting and support each other in your efforts to try out some new strategies. You might even want to get a whole group involved!

Today we look at the following.

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

The people that I know—artists, 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 find yourself already sad at the beginning of your day because you are already grieving for the things you know you won’t be getting to. An “or” life isn’t great for your mental health.

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 full also of 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, both practically and psychologically. 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 your 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.

To summarize:

Today’s goal: Beginning to live an ‘and” life

Today’s key principle: Deeply accepting the nature and quantity of our tasks and deciding to accomplish them in a calm, routine, everyday way is better for our mental health than fretting about our tasks, not feeling equal to handling them, and avoiding them through procrastination.

Today’s key strategy: Say, “I think I’ll switch from an ‘or’ life to an ‘and’ life.”

Good luck today!

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Dr. Eric Maisel is the author of 40+ books including Life Purpose Boot Camp, Rethinking Depression, and Coaching the Artist Within. In 2015 he will be launching a Future of Mental Health initiative. You can learn more about Dr. Maisel’s books, services, trainings, and workshops at http://ericmaisel.com. Contact Dr. Maisel at ericmaisel@hotmail.com. And don’t forget to attend the free Future of Mental Health virtual conference in February: https://www.entheos.com/The-Future-of-Mental-Health/Eric-Maisel