The Paradox Mindset-Both/And Thinking

April 15, 2024
Audrey Palmeri

Audrey Palmeri

We live in a society where we often think in “either/or” terms. In this style of thinking, only one thing can be true and we struggle to handle competing tensions, tasks and assignments. We get overwhelmed and struggle to accomplish everything we need to, leading to our progress being hindered. To be better off, we need to shift our thinking. A paradox mindset promotes thinking in “both/and” terms and encourages embracing conflicting tensions and demands. Someone with a paradox mindset can acknowledge that the two things can be conflicting at the same time and find ways to work through these differences. Across many research studies, a paradox mindset has been associated with many favorable outcomes, including better performance.1

Recent research has shown that having a paradox mindset is associated with higher academic performance and well-being in college students.2 Ella Miron-Spektor, the main researcher behind the paradox mindset, suggests that we can develop a paradox mindset. As we approach the end of the semester, it might be useful to adopt a paradox mindset. Here are some tips that can help you develop a paradox mindset.3

  1. Tell yourself that it is both possible and probable to accomplish two competing tasks.
    Making yourself believe you can do this will make the experience feel less daunting.
  2. Accept that tension exists between tasks. In a paradox mindset, it is important to realize that the tension between these items will not entirely go away. Embrace the tension.
  3. Find ways to allocate your resources to finish everything that needs to get done. Instead of fixating on scarcity, try to be more positive and think about what types of new possibilities can emerge from this situation.

When we find ways to embrace the tension and adopt a paradox mindset, we can do our best work. Although a paradox mindset will not solve all problems, it opens up the possibilities to become more creative and find new solutions to problems that would not be possible if we constrained ourselves to “either/or” thinking.

Audrey Palmeri: Audrey Palmeri received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Economics from Union College in 2022 and currently works as a research manager at the Well-Being and Measurement Lab with Louis Tay. She is broadly interested in understanding how people and relationship affect one’s well-being and experiences in the workplace.


  1. Miron-Spektor, E., Ingram, A., Keller, J., Smith, W. K., & Lewis, M. W. (2018). Microfoundations of Organizational Paradox: The Problem Is How We Think about the Problem. Academy of Management Journal, 61(1), 26–45.
  2. Palmeri, A., Dai, X., Yang, ZR., Leung, AK., Kung, FYH., & Tay, L. (2024, April). Does having a Paradox Mindset Lead to Well-Being and Performance? Poster submitted to the 39th annual meeting of the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology, Chicago, IL.
  3. Miron-Spektor, E. (2020, May 5). Overwhelmed? Adopt a Paradox Mindset. INSEAD Knowledge.