How To Open Your Mind To The World of Possibility

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

Brief Summary:

Benjamin is a conductor and teacher at the Boston Philharmonic symphony while Rosamund is a psychotherapist. Together they share with us their 12 proven practices to opening up your life to the world of possibility.  Today, I share with you 7 of the 12 practices that I found most helpful:

It is all Invented (Practice 1):

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,

SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES

The other write backs triumphantly,

GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES

Each of us sees things in our own unique ways, and when we do, we tell our version of the story, as did these two marketing scouts. Why? As we experience life one moment at a time our brain is processing sensations and quickly providing us with a mental map to help us assess our next move. Basically, all of our experiences help us invent our own version of the world which creates the stories we tell and they things we see. This causes us to see the world the way we want to see it, not the way it truly is. If we could see the world as it really is, we would realize that everything is just invented.

What if we could see the world in a new way and generate a new or different map in our mind, a way to flip the script that is already written for us. Benjamin and Rosamund call this the practice of remembering “It is all invented.”

They give you a helpful set of questions to ask yourself to practice this concept:

  1. What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see?

When you answer that ask yourself this:

  1. What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me other choices?

Stepping into the World of Possibility (Practice 2):

We live in this “world of measurement” where everything we do is measured. We continuously think about how to survive, how we compare to others, and how we can be better than our competition which leads us to feel anxiety, self-doubt and gives us the natural instinct to look out for only ourselves. 

What if we thought about the world differently? What if the world was not about yourself but about becoming part of all being, and the focus was not on competing with others but finding joy in believing we could all succeed? Why not a world of possibility where we focus on being joyful and letting ourselves be who we truly want to be?

To practice this, ask yourself “ How are my thoughts and actions, at this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

Giving an A (Practice 3):

As a teacher, Benjamin Zander starts every student with an A to start the semester and makes them write out how they see their future selves succeeding as an A student in his class. He believes that if you think from the get-go that you are an A student, you will act as such. In his mind, you and your peers will hold you accountable to a higher standard because now you are officially an A student. You will be freed from the vicious cycle of worrying about comparing yourself to others which will allow you find out what you need to do to achieve the desired outcome.

Being a Contribution (Practice 4):

If anything, always find a way to contribute. This mindset can help you tremendously when trying to remain positive or trying to get through a bad day. If you ask yourself the simple question each morning, or during a moment of struggle.

Today or in this moment, how can I just merely contribute?

Lead from any chair (Practice 5):

As we live in this world of measurement, we assign titles to each person, and we believe only a CEO, Manager, Teacher, Parent, or Coach can be the only leaders in the room. These titles give people false misrepresentation of what leadership really is. No matter who you are or what your claim is, remember you are a leader. Here’s why:

“Today was exceptional in that I learned leadership is not a responsibility – nobody has to lead. It’s a gift, shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters. It’s in the eyes, the voice, this swelling song that warms up from the toes and tingles with endless possibilities. Things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love and give it everything.” – Quote is taken from a middle school student of Benjamin Zanders

The question to ask yourself is “How much greatness are you willing to grant people.”

Rule Number 6 (Practice 6):

Rule number 6 is simple and something you should never forget, “Don’t take yourself so god-damn seriously.”

The way things are (Practice 7):

Being present to things as the way they are is NOT the same as accepting things as they are.  Now, it doesn’t mean you should pretend you like what happens and act as if you always take the high road. It is OK to feel negative or disagree with a certain situation.  But practicing the idea of being present with the idea that things are the way they are allows you to not build up any resistance to being present. The practice of being present allows you to see the situation objectively and take the best course of action.

How this book has impacted me:

After reading this book, I learned how crucial remaining objective in every situation can help guide you in the brightest and darkest moments. I try my best every day to remain as present and objective as I can to try to see the possibility in every situation I am faced with. A few months after reading this book and practicing the things I learned I came up with my own way to deal with day to day situations. It is a straightforward guide I follow, but yet it has made an enormous impact on me:

  1. Remain objective.  Focus on what really happened or caused the issue, not what I want to believe happened
  2. Ask; what do I control? I control my attitude, my next move, ability to think differently, my willpower
  3. How can we resolve the issue? Invent a new way out of the situation, don’t fall back into the same preconceived notions that this is impossible

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Do you see a world of measurement or a world of possibility? Buy the book here!