Why Grey is the Best Color...For Your Mind

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

You’re on a dating website and you message someone you felt attracted to and got no response. You think to yourself, “I’ll never find the right person, so why bother?”

Or, “I ate that piece of cake I wasn’t supposed to so I might as well eat the ice cream too. I’ve blown it. I’m never going to lose those last 15 pounds.”

Or, you left the report you needed for the meeting with your boss at home and you think to yourself, “I am always forgetting everything. I’m never going to get that promotion.”

These are examples of black and white, all-or-nothing thinking; I like to call it zebra thinking. This type of thinking is a cognitive distortion where you split your thinking and views into extremes. How you process situations is seen in absolute terms, such as never, always, ever, or nothing.

All or nothing thinking makes it harder to see alternatives or other possible solutions to problems. You get stuck in assuming only one way to solve a problem or assume only one intention or meaning of someone else’s words or actions.

All or nothing thinking also sets you up for failure and the pressure can be crushing since the expectations you generally set are unrealistic to begin with. The result is a vicious cycle of starting, stopping, and stalling. Not a very fun or productive place to be right?

So instead of having black and white thinking which so often leaves you feeling stuck, rigid, and more negative, aim to be grey. When you leave (or create) space for grey, you don’t live in absolutes. You recognize that there may be multiple ways to solve a problem or multiple reasons to explain someone else’s behavior.

Grey allows you to be creative, to think outside the box, to move on from problems and challenges without allowing them to totally sideline you. It helps you to be more resilient and flexible, which are crucial to lowering your stress and living a happier life.

Want to channel more of your inner grey?

Here are 3 steps to shed your zebra thinking:

1.      Begin noticing your absolutes: start paying attention to the words you use like “never,” “always,” “nothing,” “everything,” “can’t,” and “ever.” Instead use grey words like “sometimes,” “often,” “occasionally,” and “will.”

2.      Challenge your initial thoughts: you can ask yourself questions about the thought, like “is this thought true?” “Are there other explanations or ways of solving or thinking about this problem?” “Is this thought helpful?”

3.      Brainstorm at least 2 alternatives: instead of assuming there must be only one possibility, solution, or meaning to a situation, challenge yourself to think of at least two possibilities (bonus points for coming up with five or more). This will get you out of that tunnel vision and reading others’ minds.

4.      Create a new response or mantra: think of a new mantra that, with practice, can become your go to response. Some examples might be, “progress, not perfection,” “If I fail, at least I’m failing forward,” “If not now, when?” “You can’t plan the future by the past,” or “The timing is perfect.”

So the next time you find yourself feeling really stuck in that all-or-nothing thinking, try using the steps above to see if you can find the best color…the color grey. And if you’d like further support to get unstuck, get your FREE Overhaul the Overwhelm Clarifying Call to see if it’s a fit to work together.