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Embracing Possibility Over Fear: The Philosophy, The Strategy and The Hack

Embracing possibility

Possibility.

noun
– the state or condition of being possible
– anything that is possible
– a competitor, candidate, etc, who has a moderately good chance of winning, being chosen, etc
– (often pl) a future prospect or potential

synonyms:
action, circumstance, hazard, hope, opportunity, fortuity, chance

antonyms:
certainty, safety, surety, plan, impossibility, unlikelihood

What’s your catalyst for action?

Is it the sense that something’s possible, even if it’s risky or scary?

That delicious sense that it just might happen.

Or do you need to get to grips with it first? To figure it out. Think it through. Make a plan. Get it right.

If you’re in the latter camp, stick around—I’m going to show you a hack, a strategy and a philosophy for embracing possibility. If you’re in the former group, you’ve probably already gone and started a new project, are off to your co-working space or are diving out of a plane, in which case you won’t be reading this so I can really just say anything… Tiny horses will inherit the earth. That guy next to you is an imposter. You shoes are made of cheese and magic.

So, now that it’s just us, I know how tough possibility can be.

I really do. I’ve grappled in that space between what’s known and what isn’t, and I’ve erred on the side of caution more times than I like.

You might think that’s an odd thing for a confidence coach to admit, and maybe it is. But I’m human, just like the next guy, and it’s through the decisions I’ve made as much as the behaviour I’ve observed in others that’s allowed me to dig into the murky depths between safety and possibility.

There’s a books worth of content on this (agents, feel free to hit me up!), but in the interests of brevity here’s a philosophy, a strategy and a hack for you to start embracing possibility, more.

The Philosophy

The known and unknown are always there, right through the centre of your life, like a tightrope. On one side, it’s safe and warm with lots of soft padding should you fall, and on the other, it’s dangerous and scary and full of sharp edges that will make you bleed.

No wonder we prefer to stay safe, when we see things that way.

But you and I both know what happens when that’s the only way you see things.

You get small. Life becomes all about what’s comfortable and what can be predicted. Your spark goes out.

That’s not how I want to live my days; as a small man in a tiny life.

I don’t want that to be my story. I don’t want that to be my example. I don’t want that to be my legacy.

I’m still figuring out what the alternative is, but I know sure as all hell that there is an alternative.

Balancing on that tightrope doesn’t always equal a choice between falling into marshmallows or plummeting into knives. In fact, seeing it as a tightrope doesn’t help at all because it creates a tension. A tension between the two sides and a tension in the rope that you’re hoping will support you.

So what if there wasn’t a tightrope? What if there were no “sides”. No fluffy pillows and no jagged rocks.

What would be left, then?

Just you. No expectations about this or that. Just the ground underneath your feet and the sense that you’re not constrained by a straight line or motivated by the tension in the rope.

You get to carve out your own path and your own story, independent from any fears about what might go wrong or how you might screw up.

This is the philosophy of personal possibility. Worth exploring, no?

The Strategy

You want a strategy—a thing you can employ as a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result—to embrace more possibility, more frequently? You got it.

Step 1: Notice
It all starts with noticing. A gentle, non-judgemental noticing of what happens in your head when faced with possibility.

There’s a bucket load of fear about fucking up. A sense of not wanting things to change (even though you might think you want things to change). The feeling that you’ll discover you’re not good enough, after all.

Just see it. Feel it. Welcome those sensations in like old friends, which, in a way, they are.

You can’t make any smart move without first of all noticing where you are.

Step 2: Open
Then, get curious. Ask questions that will increase your learning and awareness. Questions like:

  • What else is there to learn about this situation?
  • What is it I’m feeling here?
  • What is there in the way I’m feeling that I might be able to learn from?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What story am I making up here?

Go digging. Dig into what’s really happening and do so in a spirit of curiosity and exploration. There are no judgements to be made here, just insights.

Step 3: Values
Now’s the time to bring out the big guns. Your values.

These are the things in yourself, in others, or out there in the world that matter most to you, and any decision you make that’s underpinned by them will be the perfect decision for you.

Your values are hardwired into you. They’re ten-thousand feet inside you and tell you what really matters. They’re the foundations, building blocks and cornerstones for who you are.

Dig into the moments in your life when you felt most alive, most at peace, most in flow, and those will be the moments when you were honouring, expressing or demonstrating one or more of your values.

Figure out what your values are (and just holler if you need a hand doing that), and they become like a star in the sky letting you know which way is north. These values of yours aren’t just an abstract concept, they’re things you can apply right at the point of change to make a decision that honours everything you already are.

Step 4: Action
No amount of enquiry or clarity is worthwhile unless it fuels meaningful action.

Taking action is the scary bit, of course, but if you’ve followed the 3 preceding steps then 3 things will have happened:

  1. You’ll no longer be invested in the fear-laden story you’ve been telling yourself
  2. You’ll have fresh perspective on how you may have been holding yourself back
  3. You’ll have a deep impetus to engage and connect in ways that matter to you

Here, in this place, action flows. You may need to take a deep breath and find a burst of courage, but the choice to act has already been made and the permission needed to move forward has already been granted. Now you just need to follow through.

It just so happens that this strategy spells out NOVA – a star that suddenly becomes thousands of times brighter.

The Hack

When it feels like you have to get it right, to nail it, to try for something and still be safe, embracing possibility is tough, if not impossible, right?

Fortunately, there’s a hack that cuts right through that like a blowtorch through butter, and it’s all to do with running experiments.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to invest your whole future or your bodily safety in your next decision. You can run an experiment for a week, 2 weeks or a month and see what happens, then change course as appropriate.

  • If you’re thinking about changing career, run an experiment to see who you can connect with or what conversations you can have inside the next 2 weeks around that.
  • If you’re frustrated with how your relationship is going, run an experiment for 1 week to practice deliberately responding to your partner with compassion and generosity.
  • If you want to start up your own business, run an experiment to offer your product or service to as many people as possible in 1 week and learn from what happens.
  • If you want to relocate or move overseas, sublet your place out and run an experiment for 3 months to see how you like it, then figure the rest out from there.
  • Or if you want to open more possibilities in terms of passion projects, run an experiment for a month where you try 4 different things (volunteering, taking a class, going to a local meetup, etc).

Experiments take off the pressure. You get to learn from an experiment, rather than judging an outcome. You get to challenge a premise or idea from a place of curiosity rather than defensiveness. And you get to change one or two variables to see what happens rather than feeling like the die is cast.

Running an experiment is a hack that short-circuits the normal fight or flight response, bringing out natural confidence and opening possibility up rather than closing it down.

And that’s what embracing possibility is about. Being open to it rather than closed to it.

Because a life without possibility is like an egg without salt, the sky without blue or Bert without Ernie. Bland, dark and lonely.

So, how will you embrace possibility?

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for these brilliant insights. I am about to start a new Nurse Practitioner position at age 63. Reading this piece is just what I needed right now. This past couple of yeas have been particularly tough ones, professionally, physically and emotionally. I plan to read your articles several times more over the coming week, and to incorporate all your suggestions, and to remind myself to breathe and relax as I start my new job. Thank you so much.

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