The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander

Reading Time: 6 minutes


12 incredibly helpful practices from a conductor and a psychotherapist that will transform the way you see the world and fuel your personal and professional success.

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Key Takeaways

It’s all invented anyways

“It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world are invented. So instead of continuing to live a disempowering narrative about how the world is against you, invent an empowering story that provides you meaning and enhances the quality of your life.

Create a new frame for your problem

“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”

If you’re stuck with a seemingly unsolvable problem, flip the script. Try to see the problem through a new lens. More often than not, the problem will vanish and new opportunities will shine through.

How to reinvent your story

“A simple way to practice it’s all invented is to ask yourself this question: What assumption am I making, That I’m not aware I’m making, That gives me what I see? And when you have an answer to that question, ask yourself this one: What might I now invent, That I haven’t yet invented, That would give me other choices?“

When you’re in a bad place, go through the above series of questions. Start moving your mind through a pattern that will help you get to a new set of beliefs and choices.

Emotions in a world of possibility

“Emotions that are often relegated to the special category of spirituality are abundant here: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion, and compassion.”

When you start seeing the world as a place of abundance, instead of a place of scarcity, you can begin to experience the emotions that make being a human so amazing – joy, awe, passion, and compassion.

Be generous and inclusive

“On the whole, resources are likely to come to you in greater abundance when you are generous and inclusive and engage people in your passion for life. There aren’t any guarantees, of course. When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and you take more risks. You may give away short-term profits in pursuit of a bigger dream; you may take a long view without being able to predict the outcome. In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.“

Resources and opportunities flourish when you generously include people in your passion for life. In orienting yourself towards abundance, you open up a new world of possibility in which you take bigger risks, pursue your dreams, and accept that you cannot always predict the outcome.

Give people an A

“For after all, it is only to a person to whom you have granted an A that you will really listen, and it is in that rare instance when you have ears for another person that you can truly appreciate a fresh point of view.”

Imagine that you graded all of the people in your life. Think about the way the grade you give influences your willingness to listen and appreciate that person. You’ll notice that giving people an “A,” instead of a lower grade, will provide you with a greater capacity to listen, understand, and appreciate that person. So instead of judging quickly and jumping to potentially false conclusions, give everyone you meet an A to start.

Success and fear

“The drive to be successful and the fear of failure are, like the head and tail of a coin, inseparably linked.”

Your success and fear of failure go hand-in-hand. Instead of being paralyzed by your fears, find ways to overcome them. When you can do this, you can use your fear as fuel for your growth.

Contribute like a pebble in a pond

If you want to give back, don’t worry too much about the outcome. Start giving back, and you’ll find that your contribution operates like a pebble in a pond. It will send positive ripples in all kinds of unexpected directions.

The calculating self

“This calculating self is concerned for its survival in a world of scarcity.”

“…child comes to think of himself as the personality he gets recognition for or, in other words, as the set of patterns of action and habits of thought that get him out of childhood in one piece. That set, raised to adulthood, is what we are calling the calculating self. The prolonged nature of human childhood may contribute to the persistence of these habits long after their usefulness has passed.”

Too many people spend their time calculating their moves and believing the world is a scarce, scary, and cruel place. Often, our calculations are related to our childhood, where we form habits based on what we are recognized for. These habits carry into adulthood, and many of them are limiting beliefs and practices that prevent us from operating at our highest point of contribution.

Move with the river

“From the perspective of the central self, life moves with fluidity like a constantly varying river, and so do we. Confident that it can deal with whatever comes its way, it sees itself as permeable rather than vulnerable, and stays open to influence, to the new and the unknown. Under no illusion that it can control the movement of the river, it joins rather than resists its bountiful flow.”

Instead of living under the illusion that you can control all of the outcomes in your life, adopt a more fluid perspective. Imagine that your journey in the river of life comes with all kinds of joy and challenges. Be open to all of those experiences. And instead of resisting the river and missing the joy, just float down it gracefully.

The difference between presence and resigned acceptance

“Being present to the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in the resigned way of the cow. It doesn’t mean you should drown out your negative feelings or pretend you like what you really can’t stand. It doesn’t mean you should work to achieve some “higher plane of existence” so you can “transcend negativity.” It simply means, being present without resistance: being present to what is happening and present to your reactions, no matter how intense.”

Being present isn’t the same as accepting the negative parts of your situation in a resigned manner. You can’t eliminate the negative in your life fully. But you can meet negative emotions with less resistance, and in doing so, you can be more present to your reality and more easily let go of these experiences that will certainly pass.

What you shine light on is what grows

“The more attention you shine on a particular subject, the more evidence of it will grow.”

If you focus on the negative in your life, it will flourish. But if you instead focus on the positive parts of your experience that you can be grateful for, you will find that life is a lot lighter than the alternative path.

The life force and enrollment

“THE LIFE FORCE for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate. Enrollment is that life force at work, lighting sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions. Sometimes the sparks ignite a blaze; sometimes they pass quietly, magically, almost imperceptibly, from one to another to another.“

Become the positive life force that allows good energy to communicate and spread. It might not always spread in the ways that you expect, but over time, it will spread.

Take responsibility

“Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again.”

When you accept responsibility for everything in your life, you are free to choose an empowering response that will allow you to conquer challenges and embrace opportunities.

The power of a vision

“In this way, a vision releases us from the weight and confusion of local problems and concerns, and allows us to see the long clear line. A vision becomes a framework for possibility when it meets certain criteria that distinguish it from the objectives of the downward spiral.”

Setting a vision for yourself can help you separate from the local and day to day noise. It can give you a guiding light to keep working towards.

Set an ambitious vision to live by

“She vowed not to say anything that could not stand as the last thing she ever said. Is she 100 percent successful? We would have to presume not. But no matter: Such a distinction is not a standard to live up to, but a framework of possibility to live into.“

If you say that you’ll never complain again and try to achieve this, you will certainly fail. But that’s okay. Setting this ambitious vision will get you much closer to a world in which you never complain than if you set a less ambitious vision or no vision at all.

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