You’ve heard me talk before about how at any given moment, two opposite things can be true. In this fall season, it is clearer to me than ever that this is not only a common feeling, it is also a skill. In fact, it is a skill that can be intentionally developed.
It’s called cognitive flexibility.
In the same way that we train our dancers to gain flexibility in their muscles, we can gain flexibility in our thinking—and actually become quite good at it. It takes some habit-building, but when you put your mind to the task, it’s pretty freeing!
In this month of September, for example, I am physically back on my feet after the devastating loss of my dad in July. I am feeling more like myself … and I still really, really miss him.
Also, I am excited that my kids are back to school (three of the five, since two have flown the nest!) and at the same time, I wish summer wasn’t over. And I am loving that our studio is back into the swing of fall dance classes—a thrilling time of year that, no matter how long I’ve done this, still wears me out!
Yet with all of these opposite feelings and activities, none of them are competing for my attention. They all exist together. Because over time, I have developed the cognitive flexibility to hold space for both. How? Just by practicing! It’s all about taking a moment—taking a breath—to acknowledge that two opposites can both be true at any given time. It’s giving yourself room to say that it’s OK for emotions to mix and match. They’re not socks!
In our lives as small business owners, there are a great deal of experiences that require cognitive flexibility. Congratulating one student while having a hard conversation with another. Reaching an enrollment goal while watching expenses go up. Celebrating an employee’s milestone year while watching another one go live out a new dream.
Only by acknowledging each feeling—and its competing companion—can we develop more agile thinking. And I believe it is this flexibility that keeps us positive; that ultimately, we are never stuck in one challenge or valley or tough season of life because there is always an “and.”
If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is. <3
So, here’s to your cognitive flexibility! May it be one of your biggest gains of the season.