A Discussion of The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander
This book is not about solving all your problems or changing the situation in which you find yourself, it’s about transforming yourself, by changing your perspective, and therefore, the way you experience each situation. It outlines 12 practices, intended to cause a “total shift of posture, perspective, beliefs, and thought processes.” Each practice is different and has its own benefits and challenges, but they all focus on changing our thinking, viewing the world differently and creating the opportunity for new possibilities in our lives. I felt as though the first two practices really lay the framework for the book. If only these two practices were mastered, we could see significant changes in our lives. These two practices are:
- It’s all invented
- Stepping into a universe of possibility
It’s All Invented / / The phrase, it’s all invented is referring to the assumptions we make, especially those that have become so ingrained we consider them to be fact. Our brains don’t like disorder and in order to better process information, our minds will always try to sort data into categories, it will try to string data points together to create a coherent story, and it will fill in the blanks with assumptions we may not even be aware we are making. No matter how “objective” we try to be, no matter how much we try to look past our assumptions, biases, and perceptions, we still always see the world through the framework our mind creates. So I might as well create a framework where the underlying assumptions allow for the conditions I desire. To practice it’s all invented, the authors suggest asking yourself this question:
What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?
This question can really be applied to every area of our lives. As I worked through this question in one area of my life, this was my thought process:
I’m not an artist. . . because I can’t paint or draw and I’m not as good at music as my sister.
I’m not creative because I have never created anything that spread.
I have nothing original to contribute and nobody would want to hear what I have to say.
As you can see, it went downhill quickly! It can be an intimidating thing to dive deep into our own thoughts, but when we’re honest with ourselves it can be very illuminating and empowering. When I tried to invent a framework that supports my goals it went this way:
Art is more than just paintings and creating art is more about intent than it is about the end-result. I love writing and that is art.
I am creative, I’m just afraid my work will be rejected.
The whole world definitely will not care about what I have to say, but there are people who can benefit from the things I’ve learned.
This new framework opened up a world of new possibilities and now here I am, I created my own website and started a blog.
The frames our minds create define what we think is possible, and if we’re not careful, they will confine it. This practice is great because it puts us in control. Even though we don’t always have control over our situation (for example, I still can’t paint), we do have control over how we perceive that situation and by choosing to widen our framework we can see new ways to change our situation which were hidden from us before.
The Measurement World / / We live in a world of measurement. We live in a world where we know everything and everyone through comparison. We know people as they are compared to other people, we know art as it is compared to other art, we know a company’s success as compared to start-of-year projections. We instinctively and naturally measure everything all the time. Underlying this world is a single assumption:
Life is about staying alive and making it through – surviving in a world of scarcity and peril.
This assumption drives much of how we think and make decisions. It creates a mindset of scarcity thinking, where we see everyone else as competitors and focus all our energy into being (or at least feeling) in control. The fear associated with this scarcity thinking drives us to constantly accumulate more because we’re worried there won’t be enough – enough money, enough customers, enough time, enough ideas, enough approval. We’ve all dealt with those salespeople who exemplify the extreme end of this mindset. They are the ones who push you to make a purchase you don’t want, who are in it for the money and are not passionate about the product they’re selling you. Nobody likes dealing with these people, but the reality is, we all operate with this mindset to some extent.
A Universe of Possibility / / On the other hand, the world of possibility is based around an assumption of abundance, not scarcity. It is characterized by generosity, creation, contribution, and choosing to consciously live with meaning. Underlying this world is a single assumption:
The pie is enormous, and if you take a slice, the pie is whole again.
This is not about just living a kind-hearted, feel-good life of generosity without ambition or success. The irony is that when you are focused on creating, on engaging people in your passions, and on being generous and inclusive, resources are actually more likely to come to you in greater abundance.
This is becoming increasingly obvious in today’s world of social media, viral posts, and online reviews. As people move away from the big brands we see that people want to invest their time and money with companies who are selling more than a product, who have a vision for something beyond themselves, and who are filled with people who are passionate and doing what they love.
A Shift in Focus / / Combining stepping into a universe of possibility with it’s all invented allows us to recognize this world of measurement, to identify the scarcity thinking in our own minds and re-frame the assumptions that we have been making as a result. How are you constantly comparing yourself to others (good or bad)? What decisions are you making based on fear of survival (for you, your company, or your ideas)? Where are you not taking risks because you’re afraid of losing control?
Changing the way we think and perceive the world is not an easy, and definitely not a quick, thing. Our thought patterns have been established over decades and our perceptions are based on years of experiences, hurts, lessons, rejections, loves, and interactions with hundreds of people. It takes an intentional choice, a clear desire to change, and the effort of creating a new habit day in and day out. Once you start though, you realize it’s worth it. Once you can see the possibilities and potential in each situation, it becomes easier to choose that view.
Your Turn / / How can you expose the hidden framework in your own life that’s supporting this world of measurement?
What assumptions are you making that are holding you back and preventing you from stepping into new possibilities?
Be honest with yourself and you might be surprised what new possibilities appear.