Sometimes, I get stuck! I build a solid foundation based on my core values and purpose. My vision excites me. It’s an appealing target. I take my own advice and formulate a plan to advance toward this future picture. But I still get stuck! Unleashing my potential is worthy work, but it’s harder than I ever imagined. Do you identify with any of these comments?
Why do we get stuck? One reason is mindset - our fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines how we interpret and respond to the situations we face. It explains how two people can look at the same circumstance, see it differently, and choose to walk down different paths. When we are stuck, one way to shake ourselves loose is to enter into the realm of possibility thinking.
Possibility thinking occurs in a space in our mind where creativity is activated. Some people occupy this space routinely. Others who used to live there have lost sight of it. Some may not have discovered it yet. But it’s available to everyone. Our ability to explore possibilities creatively - to set aside any self-imposed limitations and imagine what “could be” - is key to unleashing our potential.
What distinguishes possibility thinkers?
Possibility thinkers are curious. They ask questions -“what if” and “I wonder” questions. They approach challenges with an open mind, with fresh eyes and fresh ears. By problem-solving in this way, they invite the door of creative possibility to open wide!
When possibility thinkers are presented with a new idea that initially strikes them negatively, they avoid making a quick judgment about its value. They stay in an information-gathering mode. “Tell me more about that. How do you see that working? What are the benefits?” What follows is a period of thoughtful reflection and thorough analysis. The payoff is a more creative solution.
There are no guarantees when you pursue possibilities! Success is not a given. If you must know the outcome of everything you do, you will only repeat what has already been done. Do you have the courage to risk? Are you willing to take action before you have all the facts? Will you confront the challenge of uncertainty? Possibility thinking requires exploring your potential out at the edges of your comfort zone. That is where your greatest achievements often occur. The risks are worth taking!
Avoid the downward spiral
“The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander has been a valuable resource for me. Among its many thought-provoking insights is downward spiral talk. Rooted in fear and scarcity, it is “a resigned way of speaking (or thinking) that excludes possibility.” For example, “We’ll never find a new employee as skilled as Sarah,” or “That idea will never work in our office,” or “These may be good suggestions, but I’ll never have time to work on them.” Downward spiral talk is a negative reaction to the circumstances in our lives. It places narrow limits on what is possible and constrains our actions.
Ben Zander says, “How we define things sets a framework for life to unfold.” He’s right. I’m not satisfied with how effectively I frame my challenges. Too often, I’m guilty of falling into the spiral trap. But the future can be different from the past. I’m working on it. How about you?
A new mindset
When converting your vision into reality, possibility thinking is a priceless resource. It will generate the energy you need to execute your plan effectively. If you get stuck, remember, mindset is a habit. Break the habit by consciously monitoring your thinking patterns. Journaling is an excellent tool. Take five minutes to review your day. Record the challenges you faced. Did you stay open to new possibilities? Did you reflect and consider before rejecting an idea? Assess your progress and form a new habit, a habit of creatively identifying and exploring all your options. Will you unleash more of your potential? Yes, it’s possible!
I welcome your e-mail feedback about this column. What has been helpful during the past five months? What insights can you add? What topics would benefit you in the future? We all have undeveloped potential. Let’s unleash it together.
Doug Young, MBA, and his spouse Marlyn, MCC, have a professional speaking and executive/team coaching business in Parker, Colo. They co-author this column and share an interest in leading-edge business concepts, achieving personal and professional potential, serving patients, and improving how people work together. Marlyn’s insights into people and relationships and coaching skills complement Doug’s motivating and mind-expanding presentations. Contact them by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at 877-DMYOUNG (369-6864), or visit their Web site at www.dmyoung.com.