I was talking to a client recently who had a sense that what she really wanted was simply not possible for her.

Either her dream job didn’t exist or she didn’t have the qualifications for it or there was no way it would pay her enough to live on.

She could think of a lot of solid, air-tight, realistic reasons that a positive outcome wasn’t possible, so she felt defeated before she even started.

I myself am no stranger to the art of impossibility.  My default response to any new idea is to think of 101 reasons it wouldn’t work out.  I spent years telling myself that I couldn’t be a writer because if I relied on it for money I would no longer enjoy it, and if it didn’t pay the bills, then how could I take it seriously?

My mother used to call this “putting yourself in a box.”  It turns out I’m exceptionally good at it

We Have Good Intentions

Those of us who have a hard time seeing possibility don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade, least of all our own.

To be fair, we’re actually trying to help make things happen by being practical, pragmatic, and down-to-earth.  Our intention is to be more effective by anticipating obstacles and planning for difficult circumstances.

And yet the actual effect of our focus on the negative is the opposite.  We miss out on opportunities because we’re focused on what can’t happen instead of what can.  We feel demotivated and discouraged.  And too often we don’t even start because we think we already know it won’t work out.

The Real Reason We Do It

When we’re having a hard time feeling a sense of possibility, it’s not because we know something other people don’t.  It’s not because what we want is impossible, or even unlikely.

The real reason we think something can’t happen is because we’re trying to protect ourselves.  Deep down, some part of us is afraid of failure, or rejection, or finding out that we’re not as capable as we thought we were.

We don’t want to be disappointed.

So we convince ourselves it’s not possible so that we don’t even try.  If we don’t try, after all, we can’t be disappointed.

But the Truth of the Matter?

We are capable beyond measure Sure, we have limitations.  But we also have great gifts to give, and our limitations are simply landmarks that orient us and point to where our greatest gifts lie.

We can handle disappointment, failure, and rejection.  In fact, these things can make us stronger and take us closer to success.

So much is possible.  There are no boxes except the ones in our heads.  No matter what roadblocks we hit, we always have choices and can always find another way.

Seeing Possibility

So the next time you find yourself thinking about all the reasons something won’t work or all the things that could go wrong, stop.

Remind yourself that:

  • The future is unknown. 

No matter what’s happened in the past, and no matter how you feel in the present, you cannot know what will happen in the future.

Remember that it’s just as possible that you’ll be surprised by a new opportunity or solution as by an unforeseen problem or obstacle.

  • There are more possibilities out there than you can think of right now.

We tend to think that we know everything and have thought of all the possibilities that exist.  In my experience, that’s almost never true.

For example, though the idea never would have occurred to me when I was younger, I now use writing as part of my work without having to rely on it entirely for income.

And if my client can’t find a job doing what she loves, she can go into business for herself.  If it doesn’t pay her enough, she can subsidize it with other types of work she doesn’t mind doing.

  • Things change.

The only thing constant about life is change.  If something isn’t possible now, it may be that all you need to do is wait.

Our economy changes all the time—for example, college degrees are becoming less important in hiring, and the highest-paying jobs are not what they used to be.  The context and constraints you are now in will not be the same next year, next month, or even next week.

It Takes Courage

Seeing possibilities is a skill we can learn.  But we have to be willing to not know.

We have to learn to see the bigger picture.  We have to allow ourselves to trust and begin to have faith.  We have to be willing to be disappointed.

When we’re ready to take that risk, possibilities are everywhere.

Over to You

What have you achieved that felt impossible or unlikely in the past?  What helps you to see the bigger picture?

Please share your experience so that others can learn from it.

See What’s Possible for You

This is the last week to sign up for this month’s Pathfinders: A Group Hike and Discussion to Find Your Calling.

You’ll meet others like you who want to make a meaningful career change and go on a beautiful walk in the woods—one of the best places you can find to see the bigger picture, reconnect to yourself, and begin to see the possibilities.

It’ll be fun, fulfilling, and free your first time.

For more information or to register, click here.

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Photo credit: Joe Hastings // CC