Recently I was thinking about the question “what is possible?”. It struck me that while we may not consciously ask ourselves this on a day-to-day basis, we are indeed answering it each day with how we live in the present and view the future.
As a trainer promoting wellness in organizations, I cringe at the extent of what I call “rah-rah-rah” books which seem to easily exhort notions like “the sky is the limit, just believe in yourself”. As a therapist, I feel this sort of philosophy oversimplifies people’s complex psychologies, and is much like tasting a teaspoon of sugar for a remedy: sweet indeed, but not long lasting and no nutritive substance to it. Surely, the way we think about things is very significant, but it is not always easy to change. And it says nothing of the very real challenges in the outside world that we may come up against: poverty, discrimination, competing demands to name a few.
At the same time, I was reflecting on times when I had an idea or goal, and had shared it with others. Here are some messages I got back:
a “that’s not realistic/it can’t be done” response
a “it can be done, but not by you” response, (meaning that I didn’t have the right credentials, background, personality, knowledge, or skills)
a “you’re not old enough to do that and you need to sell your own book first” response, (which is another, albeit more specific, response about perceived credibility)
a “sure you can do that, but you’ll have to give your whole life up and then what if it goes wrong” response
Of course, I did receive other responses from people which ranged from neutral to blindly optimistic. But in most cases, the negating or discouraging responses were coming from an intention of protectiveness, of people who didn’t want to see me hurt or disappointed. I did not experience those responses as being about ego-competitiveness on the other party’s part. (erm…okay, usually).
So I began to list times in my life when things actually did work out–and somehow I had accomplished or arrived at that goal-place which had been previously heavily cautioned or outright snubbed. As I recalled the various places I had been on each journey towards a goal, I realized how many things I have already “done” in my life that were supposedly not possible.
In conversations with clients, friends, and family over the years, its pretty clear I have not been the only one to wrestle with the question of “what is possible?”. While I am ever-cautious about endorsing “the sky is the limit” philosophy, the messages we get from others about what is possible are powerful indeed.
So I invite you to reflect on your experiences:
-What have you been told / where have you learned about what “is/isn’t possible”?
-What experiences have you had where you have already met a goal or part-goal of something that “isn’t possible”?
-How have those messages and experiences impacted the way you look ahead at what is possible next in your life?
So…what is possible?