What to do when you’re stuck between two options

One of the things I notice when the thinkers I work with are stuck is that they fall into binary language.

They end up with two choices, this OR that.

But they can’t decide which to go for.

They go back and forth, listing all the pros and cons and feel like they’re going round in circles.

They’re in a bind until they can work out which option to choose.

When I notice the thinker is in this head space I share with them some wisdom from Peter Hawkins:


“If it’s either or, it’s neither nor”


When we get stuck between two options our thinking narrows and we get immersed in the problem. So immersed that we often don’t realise that there are usually more than two options available.

Maybe there is a way to dip your toe into the water of one option to try it out without having to commit fully. Maybe you can try both options at the same time and see how they feel. And maybe there is another way altogether.

Usually when I share Peter’s wisdom there’s a sigh of relief from the thinker. They’re no longer stuck between two choices and their brain is set free to think of other options.

I often follow this up by asking, “What if it was an and instead of an or?”

You can be scared of the unknown AND excited.

You can be disappointed with your team member AND  support them to succeed.

You might be able to take a little of this option AND a little of that option.

‘Or’ thinking keeps us stuck between two options that aren’t ideal. The fear that we might make the wrong move keeps up bouncing back and forth between them.

‘And’ thinking unleashes your brain to look for other options, one of which could be to do nothing.

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