Moving from Black or White to GREY

Moving toward Balance:
How Much of a Challenge IS Getting to Grey?


by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
One of The Black & White topic articles from
The Challenges Inventory™ Series

As I implied in my introductory article, Black and White Thinking is probably the most insidious of the Nine Challenges identified by The Challenges Inventory™.

It’s like a VIRUS: it infects, proliferates, and spreads to others.

  • Until addressed and overcome, black and white thinking will chain one arm to that well referenced rock and the other to that proverbial hard place. At that point, every single one of life’s other Challenges will loom larger than they would ever be otherwise.
  • The good news is that turn-around is not only possible, with some concentrated attention to what’s going on, turn-around is inevitable.
  • With every teeny-tiny step you take into the grey – away from the extremes of black and white – life gets better, and the next step becomes easier to take.

By the end of this segment in the Black and White Thinking Series, what I want for you is to be in a place where you are ready to take the first step toward CHANGING what’s going on now by transforming your thinking – one small step for man, one giant leap for man-KIND!

Since awareness is always the first step on the road to change, let’s take a closer look, considering what well might have been a huge contributor to the development of what’s going on now.

No One is Immune

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The Black and White Thinking Trap

MouseTrapThose of us with “invisible disabilities” seem to get stuck in the black and white thinking trap more than most.

Perhaps, as I suggested when I began this Series, it is because we have heard black and white judgments flung our way so often — primarily due to expectations set by appearance.  We don’t look different, so how can anything different apply?  “Stop making excuses,” they say.

But we can’t permit their lack of understanding or awareness to define OUR behavior and limit our potential, right?

Each of us must teach ourselves NOT to internalize their language and their judgments.

Because I promise you they are WRONG.

  • THEY don’t live inside your Being — how could they possibly know what’s going on in your hearts and minds better than you do?
  • THEY don’t have your backlog of life experiences and your perspectives, which can’t help but impact your expectations of life’s possibilities. How could they possibly know better what you must overcome or work-around to succeed in the face of your challenges?
  • How could they possibly know how hard you are trying or judge how well you are doing? The odds against their being right-on are astronomical!
  • All they can possibly do is to project their interpretations, a product of what’s going on with THEM, onto you and your actions.

And yet, so many people interact with us as if what they see is all there IS to see — as if they hold the secret key to the treasure boxes in our universe! And many of them can’t wait to tell us what we are doing wrong and what we need to change.

And we believe them!

We take it in and take it on, ruminating over what we “should” have said or done – ironically, attacking ourselves in our defense. Self-doubt creeps in and we begin to beat ourselves up for not doing a better job of what THEY say we need to do to run OUR lives.

recipeBoxInstead of moving ahead as if life were one grand experiment, we begin to take actions designed to avoid “mistakes,” because we certainly don’t want to attract more of those critical comments! (at least that’s what I tend to do – as do most of my clients and students)

And life gets smaller as Challenges loom larger.

We seem to forget that most recipes must be adjusted.

All anyone else’s tastebuds can determine is what tastes best to THEM.

  • We may prefer more or less salt.
  • We may not, by accident or by design, have a particular spice on our shelves so must substitute another.
  • Even cookbook recipes remind us to adjust for altitude before we bake!

Acknowledging STRENGTHS

When people speak to us out of their interpretation of our supposed deficits or “growing edges,” or whatever language they use to justify the practice – even when their goal is the exact opposite – it almost always shuts us down.

Phillip Martin, artist/educator

© Phillip Martin

It wakes up Mr. Amygdala – danger, danger, danger! – which pulls resources from the parts of our brain necessary to make effective decisions, prioritize action steps and activate for accomplishment.

Each “You’re not doing it right” comment pushes us one step closer to the edge of the black and white cliff.

It’s not helpful! As long as we attempt to calibrate our inner clocks from anyone else’s, we’ll never get them set right.

Our REAL challenge? Learning to take feedback that works for us, throw the rest in the garbage where it belongs, smile as sweetly as we can as we respond, “Thank you for sharing”  — and move ON.

Judge not, that ye be not judged

Projecting our own motivations onto others is a habit that most of us must learn to overcome. Since it is hard work to learn to avoid generalizing about human behavior and applying it to specific human beings, most people never learn to do it.

The classic actor’s question, “What’s my motivation?” is frequently the butt of jokes, but all great actors understand innately that it is FOUNDATIONAL.

If you don’t attempt to understand the aim of another,
how will you ever be able to evaluate whether or not their aim is true?

Good character actors never stop studying what drives human behavior — and how it looks from the outside — so that they can slip into the skin of a character.  Even so, there are many times they struggle to do it with authenticity.

Most of the world has never taken the time to OBSERVE the motivation/behavior link so closely – but that seldom stops them from chiming in as experts anyway!


Your first step away from the black and white edge is to believe that, no matter how many people have tried to “correct” your thinking or your motivation or your actions, they were simply wrong – and “Just say NO” to taking that nonsense in.

We ALL need to learn to identify and let go of the patterns of thought that leave us judging ourselves deficient when we deviate from unrealistic, “other’s-based” and impossible “norms.”

Only then are we ready to shape our actions in a manner that will be congruent with our own values — aimed in the direction we want to travel.

As this Series progresses, we’ll look at how to DO that “shaping of our actions” as we, step-by-step, move back from edge of the Black and White Thinking cliff.

Meanwhile, the most powerful place to stand is remind ourselves that we ALL do the best we can at all times.  Don’t split that hair!  Take it in and take it on.


Start paying attention to your own tendencies to project your world view onto others. We all do it, but it never serves us.

The extent to which we judge others determines the degree of difficulty we will experience detaching from their judgment of us.

An easy way to begin is to remind yourself to notice your knee-jerk reaction to some of the outrageous actions of celebrities you’re never likely to meet. Even if you can’t put those actions in a kinder frame, take the time to notice – and name – your own judgment.  Don’t defend it and don’t explore it, just notice it and name it: judgment.

Pay attention to your reaction when you do that.  Are you judging yourself for judging them? Notice it and name it.

Many people find that, over time and relatively consistent usage, this simple awareness exercise changes their reactions when they are judged by others.  Try it and see how well it works for you.

No TIME to read all this stuff?

man-on-phoneAfter the holidays, watch for the announcement of an upcoming 12-week TeleClass on Modular Success Systems that will help you sort through a great many of the available “modules” we need to imderstand, select from, and put together to be able to design an action plan (guaranteed to be easier than what most of you are currently attempting to work with).

Like Private Coaching, all you need is a phone, and TeleClasses are a much cheaper alternative to hiring my personal coaching services (and the FIRST time I offer a new class is always your least expensive option by far!). As always, class size will be small to allow for personal attention, so don’t miss the announcement if you want to make sure you sign up before the first class fills.

If you already know that this is something you are going to want to be part of, let me know in a comment below and I’ll make sure you have advanced notice
(be SURE to fill in your name and email on the comment form or I won’t be able to contact you).

Meanwhile, keep reading as often as you can! To double the benefit, whenever I post a new article, make it a habit to pick at least one of the Related Content links to read at the same time (embedded in the text and duplicated in the Related Links at the bottom of every post). If you’ll “like” or comment after the pages you’ve read, it will help you keep track and will point others to posts you find especially helpful (as well as helping ME to know what you want me to write about).

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IN ANY CASE, DO stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading any of the articles of this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

You might also be interested in some of the following articles
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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