For years I proudly described myself as a ‘black and white’ person and it wasn’t uncommon for me to utter the words “I don’t do gray”. I saw this as a sign of having a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong as well as a desire and commitment to the specifics in life. Specifics such as right and wrong, yes and no, good and bad and black and white were of great importance to me. On this front things have changed for me in recent years. I’ve seen the light you might say, or I have seen the beauty of gray.

I used to believe in what I considered to be right. I would look at a situation and to me it would be obvious what within that situation was right and what was wrong. I could be fairly stubborn about this and I felt justified because in my mind I relied on principles such as fairness, equality and kindness. So when faced, for example with a situation such as one person bullying another person, the conclusion in my opinion would be indisputable. The bully was in the ‘wrong’ and should face the consequences of their ‘bad’ behaviour. End of story.

These days, I would never view a situation in this way. If I witnessed bullying behaviour, I would wonder what is behind that behaviour. What makes the bully behave that way and why is the person being bullied allowing that behaviour to happen. I would probably see two people who are suffering rather than one and I would not judge the situation in terms of right and wrong or good and bad.

This has changed my life. For me now, acknowledging the shades of gray in life represents flexibility. For me now, flexibility represents strength and not weakness as I might have previously thought. One of my favourite lyrics is by Ani Di Franco in a song called ‘Buildings and Bridges’ and reads:

Buildings and bridges, are made to bend in the wind to withstand the world, that’s what it takes. All that steel and stone is no match for the air, my friend what doesn’t bend breaks.

“What doesn’t bend breaks” is a line I repeat to myself often. I am now better able to see the shades of grey in other people’s stories and situations and also in my own life I am able to bend and be flexible in a way that makes life far easier to navigate. I have a theory, which I call the “push-pull theory”. It’s as simple as it sounds. Whenever you are pushing at something or someone in life, someone or something has to be pulling in response. Have you ever had a situation when you’ve wanted something so badly that the harder you try to get it the more elusive it seems? This would be a case in point.

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. ~ Lao Tzu

I’ll give you an example from my life. I chair a lot of meetings in my job and sometimes, as is the case in business, people make comments that could potentially de-rail the meeting or that could be taken as a negative. Previously, I would have tried to ‘combat’ this by sweeping the comment under the table and moving the meeting along to keep it on track with the agenda. Something I’ve learnt recently is that by doing this I give the comment more strength because by pushing us to move on, I’ve created an equal pull or resistant force. I’ve found that something as simple as acknowledging the comment with a response such as “I understand why that is a concern for you and we’ll take it into account going forward” and then bringing us back to the agenda, can make the whole meeting run more smoothly, everybody is happier because they feel listened to and heard and there should be less resistant energy in the room as a result. This probably sounds really simple but for me this has been quite a breakthrough.

Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed. ~ Jason Kravitz

Previously I think I could have been described as forceful or determined and I would have seen these adjectives as positive words that described my strength. Now I realise that my strength lies in my ability to adapt to the situation and display flexibility. In being more flexible I believe I get more out of life, more comes my way because I am not pushing and creating pull, or pulling and creating push. By being flexible in my approach, I am still able to assert my needs in life in a way that does not encourage resistance from others.

Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach. ~ Tom Robbins

Do you have any stories of how being flexible has brought better results or when pushing or controlling has hindered you? If so I’d love to hear about them. If you like this post please share using one of the buttons below.