How to overcome black or white thinking?

In this article we take a look at some of the most common dichotomies & corresponding trichotomies to examine their effect on our thought processes.

In this article we examine ways to overcome black and white thinking, i.e. thinking in a dichotomy. We take a look at some of the most common dichotomies, & correlate these to corresponding trichotomies to expand our thought processes.

We all tend to think in forms of Dichotomies more than often. Dichotomies offer a simple view of the world, which is easy to grasp. It also offers simple options (just 2) to choose for ourselves, and makes choosing a comfortable process for the Self.

Dichotomies vs Trichotomies


Lets take a look at a few Dichotomies to make this clear. For each of the following Dichotomies, make a choice:

  • Truth vs Lie
  • Good vs Bad
  • Beautiful vs Ugly
  • Love vs Hate
  • Similar vs Opposite
  • God vs Devil

Furthermore, these dichotomies are propagated recursively by the entertainment industry. Its a simplistic view of the world, and it provides an easy premise for emotional amplification. And that’s how the entertainment industry makes money. This would not be a problem if we were consuming entertainment media sparingly – watching one movie a week. But in the age when binge watching is an accepted personal norm, this leads to a thought pattern & world view that is not based in reality or pragmatism.

A person who thinks in terms of Dichotomies places himself & others at extreme ends of the scale.


One of the best ways to prevent your thought process from converging towards a dichotomic perspective is to understand Trichotomies & the numerous Trichotomic representations of the Self & the world around us. The world actually exists as a Polychotomy – often will multiple non-linear possibilities within a single dimension, but a Trichotomy is the first step towards expanding your perspective and moving away from a dichotomy.

Lets take a look at one of the most fundamental Trichotomies – Plato’s Transcendentals.

Now, make a choice based on the following options.

  • Beautiful Lie vs Ugly Truth
  • Virtuous Lie vs Sinful Truth
  • Ugly good lie vs Beautiful bad truth

As you can see, the above requires making imperfect choices, which is a better representation of the choices that life gives us.

Now, compare this to the dichotomic choices presented earlier. Those choices represent ideals. If you are sticking to ideals, and are only choosing based on dichotomic viewpoints, you are more than likely missing a significant part of the picture.

Self Awareness Questions

  • Identify an Ugly Truth about yourself. How can you make it virtuous?
  • Identify a sinful truth about yourself. Examples are greed, lust etc. How can you make it beautiful?

This article & the above questions are part of the new version of my workbook – The Stellar Self. This topic is one of the many topics of discussion in my workshops.

Behavioural Change For Self Esteem

In this article we examine how Self Driven Behavioural Change can be achieved through Self Discovery, and how this can be used as a therapeutic method based on Self Perception Theory.

In this article we examine the factors at play for driving Behavioural Change, that can lead to improvements in Self Esteem. We identify the areas that are within control of the Self vs those that are not.

Prerequisite Reading

  • Defining Self Esteem
  • Understanding Self Esteem
  • Journaling For Self Esteem

In the past articles we explored the idea of Self Esteem and examined the role of Journaling as one of the anchor habits that could help us bring positive change in our Self Esteem. A key takeaway from those articles is that Self Esteem is not just based on affirmations, it is actually based on Action. Here we try to evaluate how to drive that action, what blocks most people from doing so, and how we can overcome that hurdle.

Behavioural Change

If you suffer from low Self Esteem, there is a very high likelihood that you exhibit certain behaviours that you yourself do not approve of, or you lack certain behaviours that you feel are integral to your values.

As an example, an overweight person may have low self esteem, because they feel inadequate & unattractive because of being overweight. This may trigger emotional responses, that can cause lack the motivation for exercising & controlling diet. Which causes them to stay overweight.

The key to breaking this cycle is Behavioural Change. If you can drive your behaviour towards positive outcomes, towards your values, you will start incrementally improving your Self Esteem.

Improving Self Esteem is an incremental Process. You don’t jump overnight from low to high. It’s a gradual process, that takes accumulation of positive behaviours, and the effectual results over time.

The key challenge is how do you drive positive behaviour in the presence of negative emotions.

Self Perception Theory

The Self Perception theory, proposed by Daryl Bem, states that our attitudes towards an event or stimuli can be changed based on our choice of behaviour as a response to it. This assertion is completely counter intuitive and represents a paradigm shift from behaviourism. But it has important implications in Self Therapy based on choosing positive behaviours, even in response to aversive stimuli.

What this theory essentially establishes is that if you do not have a preconceived emotional disposition towards an outcome, you can choose your behavioural response. And if you choose a positive behavioural response to an unfavourable outcome, you will not have a negative attitude towards that outcome.

Application of Self Perception Theory

The Self Perception theory can be applied in enabling individuals for overcoming or moderating negative emotions resulting in poor self esteem. This could be any event(s) causing repeated emotional impact. Most people resort to self damaging behaviours – since their sense of self is damaged to such events.

Based on Self Perception theory, if we can drive positive behavioural change, we can help individuals overcome emotional adversity and improve their Self Esteem more effectively.

Behavioural Change for Self Esteem

As you can see in the Diagram above, there are certain factors in our control, while others are not.

Our conscious thought process, perspective and analysis of events is in our control. Our emotions are affected by our thought process, our biology & the outcomes of events directly affecting us. We can control our actions in events we participate in, but we are not in control of the outcome of those events.

As you can conclude, the only factor we can affect in this dynamic is to drive our thought processes towards favourable perspectives. This is key to driving behavioural change for improving Self Esteem.

Self Awareness Questions

  • Identify one repeated action / event from your life that regularly leads to negative thoughts.
  • Write down those thoughts. Create a  positive analysis of the action / event.

What most people misunderstand about financial freedom?

In this article we attempt to develop a true understanding of financial freedom, beyond the hype of flashy cars, real estate & fame. We discover what it truly means to have affluence and look at three categories of affluent behaviour.

In this article we look at some of the most common misgivings about the idea of Financial Freedom. We attempt to develop a true understanding of financial freedom, beyond the hype of flashy cars, real estate & fame. We discover what it truly means to have affluence and look at three categories of affluent behaviour.

Most people who are struggling in their finances want to be rich. However, there is widespread misunderstanding or a complete lack of understanding of the concept of Money. What poor people see at riches is usually what is depicted in popular media. Flashy lifestyle, mansions & infinite wads of cash. And the truth couldn’t be farther.

The rich are not trying to be rich. Anyone trying to get rich, is poor.

You can have all the assets in the world, but if you’re trying to be rich, you are actually poor.

If you want to be rich, you must understand what it means to be rich. And as with everything of life, being rich has many aspects. Here I have narrowed them down into three broad categories in order for one to develop an understanding of where she wants to be.

Income negative

The first is the asset rich individual who spends more than he earns from his assets. He has a lot of Assets, so he qualifies as being rich. But he spends more than he earns, and the value of his total monetary equity decreases as time goes by. These individuals are rich on borrowed time. It’s just a matter of time, when your asset pool runs out, and you need to change your lifestyle in order to make the income you need, or adjust to the income you can make. However, if you have assets that will outlast your lifetime, you have nothing to worry about.

Income Positive

This is the Asset rich individual who spends less than the income from his assets. Because he has net positive income from assets, he can easily manage his lifestyle, and he continues to enjoy equity growth. Most such individuals maintain a relatively conservative lifestyle, as compared to their assets. However, you do need a considerable net worth to start with. You also need Asset Management expertise, or must have a trust worthy & competent asset manager. You also need high ability to delay gratification, just so you don’t go down burning your assets.

Equity Positive

This is an individual who is on and upward equity trajectory. She may not be asset rich in the present, but has a lifestyle that she enjoys, pursuing work aligned to her Ikigai, while creating positive Equity. For someone who does not have assets high enough to be in the first or second category, this is the only option for qualifying as being Rich.

Self Awareness Questions

  • Amongst the three kind of rich people, which one do you want to be?
  • Which one is the easiest to be?

Attribution Style vs Locus of Control

In this article, we take a look at two similar ideas in Psychology – Attribution Style & Locus of control. We elaborate on the fine details in order to improve our understanding. We further note the key differences in these two concepts & look at the interplay of how these two are inter-related.

In this article, we take a look at two similar ideas in Psychology – Attribution Style & Locus of control. We elaborate on the fine details in order to improve our understanding. We further note the key differences in these two concepts & look at the interplay of how these two are inter-related. 

Locus of Control

Represents how much you believe that your efforts (not performance) towards a goal will result in the end result being success or failure

There are three important details to note with respect to the above definition of  Locus of control.

  1. The first is that it is your belief or conviction, which may of may not be actual truth.
  2. The second is the emphasis on effort & not the actual performance. You are believing in your effort, and not in your actual performance, although the performance is typically correlated to your effort.
  3. And the third is the idea of success or failure. The idea of success or failure is also an internalized metric, which is typically not well internalized for most individuals. It is heavily influence by socio-cultural norms. 

Attribution Style

Represents what you believe caused the outcome (success or failure) of any event, including the cause of your behaviour related to the event.

There are three important details to note with respect to the above definition of  Attribution Style.

  1. The first is that this is also based on your belief, and therefore may or may not be grounded in facts.
  2. The second detail is that it is related to any outcome – whether it is a success or a failure.
  3. The third is that it includes your perception towards the cause of your behaviour, i.e. whether you believe your past behaviour is attributed to external circumstances or your own will.

How are these ideas related?

While it is typically professed that an internal Locus of Control is conducive to higher rates of success, I do not subscribe to this generalization. Personally I think a mix of factors decide successful outcomes. I believe both – an internal or external – Locus of Control – may have its advantages / disadvantages depending on situations & context of the individual. The Locus of Control – for an individual may vary depending on context, as well as over a period of time based on their experience.

This diagram, based on the work of Bernard Weiner, represents a better perspective on Locus of Control & Attribution Style. It factors in Stability of response to effort, which establishes expectancy, and that results in an internal Locus of Control. The internal Locus of Control results in persistence towards your goal. The other factor is causality, which is whether the event is actually effected by the effort of the participant.

Self Discovery Questions

  • Outline two of your most memorable failures. Describe the reason for each failure.
  • Outline two of your most memorable successes. Describe the reason for each Success.
  • How can these ideas be used in the area of personal health? How can you use these ideas in your personal relationships?

Making Money vs Earning Money

In this article we take a look at the key difference between the pursuit of Earning money & Making Money. We explore the limitations of earning money, and examine the true meaning of making money.

In this article we take a look at the key difference between the pursuit of Earning money & Making Money. We explore the limitations of earning money, and examine the true meaning of making money.

“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

– P.T. Barnum

While most people have read this quote, very few understand it. And even fewer understand it in the context of the current soho-economic environment.

Most people hold a limited view of Money – assuming that there is limited money in the world, and so if the rich have a lot, they are taking it from the poor. And this is what keeps them in the competitive loop of continuously earning more & more ‘amounts’ of money.

Secondly – most people still think of currency as Money. Their primary focus is on earning maximum currency. And in that situation employment becomes the de-facto means of earning Money. Such individuals will take up a job that pays higher currency. They move up the employment ladder based on currency.

Selling Labor

What they are effectively doing is selling labor (and the corresponding time). In the current socio-economic environment labor creates Equity. So when you are employed by a corporation, you are effectively selling your share of the equity created for currency. If you do not understand this, you will most likely stay poor for life, irrespective of how much currency you earn. Selling your labor, or your time, is the first way of earning money.

Acquiring Assets

The second option of earning money is by acquiring assets. It offers a simple solution for generating income. It is understood easily by the masses. It offers a stable means of generating income through capital investment. Individuals with high currency earnings can graduate to buying assets & generating income. This requires delaying gratification in order to accumulate assets, and learning asset management in order to manage assets. While this form of generating income offers freedom from employment, you can become a slave to your assets. 

Creating Equity

The third option is creating & managing Equity. This is the least understood option. However it is the most crucial &most rewarding in the current socio-economic environment. If you can create a lifestyle that suits your personal needs and creates surplus incremental equity for your sustenance, you have hit the jackpot.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of creating & managing equity at the personal level. And therefore we will be looking at a discourse on equity & self awareness in the coming articles.

Self Awareness Questions

  • Which category / categories are you in right now?
  • Where do you want to be? How can you get there?