We all have our mantras, expressions like "money doesn't grow on trees" or "blood is thicker than water." They're often the sayings we grew up with, and they can have a powerful hold on our belief system.
For example, if you grew up with a parent telling you, "Don't go putting on airs," or "You're no better than anyone else," it can be a challenge for you to appreciate your own special uniqueness.
The intent of the mantra is true. You aren't better than anyone else. No one is, and to act like you are is egotistical and off-putting. But it's also true that you probably have skills, talents and gifts that are uniquely yours and yours alone.
That's the problem with mantras. They're often, in the words of philosopher John Stuart Mills, "correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny."
The expressions themselves may be true, but they're not the whole truth or the only truth.
For instance, it's true "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Your upbringing and genetics play a huge role in determining who you turn out to be in life. Yet it's also true that we each have the power to shape our own destinies and personalities.
It's true that "good things come to those who wait." However, that doesn't mean that your needs and desires must always come last.
It's also true that "you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth." But you don't have to blindly accept everything that's given to you.
And of course, there's my grandmother's expression, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." It's certainly true that people with no work or purpose are much more likely to fall prey to, as Grandma would say, "unsavory activities." But that doesn't mean that you're signing your soul over to Satan every time you give yourself permission to take a break.
The challenge with so many of our most popular sayings and mantras is that they're absolutes. They affirm inherent truths about life. Yet they can also be limiting when they become so deeply ingrained in our belief system that we can't accept any alternative truths.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
Instead of simplistic, one-dimensional, either/or type mantras, our souls and psyches would be better served if we could embrace more "AND" mantras.
Here are eight "AND" affirmations that I use with my kids, my employees and myself to help us see both sides of everything:
1. You're really smart AND you can learn a lot from other people.
2. There are rules we all must follow AND you're in charge of your own decisions.
3. We should all respect authority AND stand up for our own beliefs.
4. You deserve the very best AND you're going to have to work hard for everything that matters.
5. Be firm in your convictions AND compassionate in your approach.
6. Set clear, concise goals AND stay open to what the world serves up.
7. Be kind to everyone AND be selective about whom you associate with.
8. You are the one we have all been waiting for AND so is everybody else.
AND: It's a simple word, and it changes everything.