The Art of Possibility

By: Rosamund & Benjamin Zander

The Art of Possibility is about seeing—about expanding the constrains we impose on our lives, problems, and decisions, allowing us to examine a greater range of options.

The first words of the book do well in describing its intent:

“This is a how-to book of an unusual kind. Unlike the genre of how-to books that offer strategies to surmount the hurdles of a competitive world and move out ahead, the objective of this book is to provide the reader the means to lift off from that world of struggle and sail into a universe of possibility. Our premise is that many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on a framework of assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view.”

Each chapter in the book presents a different tool for broadening possibility, more than a couple of which, are described in the quotes below.

This is a book for everyone, as we all tend towards narrow-mindedness, routine, and are often only able to see a sliver of the expanse of possibility that exists in each moment.

My 10 Favorite Index Cards:

Many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on a framework of assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view.
We perceive only the sensations we are programmed to receive, and our awareness is further restricted by the fact that we recognize only those for which we have mental maps of categories.
When you bring to mind it’s all invented, you remember that it’s all a story you tell—not just some of it, but all of it. And remember, too, that every story you tell is founded on a network of hidden assumptions.
When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and you take more risks.
When I began playing the game of contribution, on the other hand, I found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one I was with; in fact, there was no “better.” In the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you are a gift to others.
Why does it spiral downward, why do things tend to look more and more hopeless? For the same reason that red Dodge pickups seem to proliferate on the highways as soon as you buy one and that pregnant women appear out of nowhere approximately eight months before your baby is due. The more attention you shine on a particular subject, the more evidence of it will grow. Attention is like light and air and water. Shine attention on obstacles and problems and they multiply lavishly.
You rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played. You move the problematic aspect of any circumstance from the outside world inside the boundaries of yourself. With this act you can transform the world.
You can always grace yourself with responsibility for anything that happens in your life. You can always find within yourself the source of any problem you have.
Think in terms of the contexts that govern us rather than the evidence we see before our eyes. It trains us to be alert to a new danger that threatens modern life—the danger that unseen definitions, assumptions, and frameworks may be covertly chaining us to the downward spiral and shaping the conditions we want to change.
Remember how we used to dream as children of the delicious freedom and power of being grown-up? And somehow the dream vanished along the way, and we were energized only here and there by a job well done, a spirited gathering, or an occasional week in the sun? Now that we know it’s all invented, let’s revise this story. Let’s just say that somewhere along the journey we carried too much, or slipped too often, or heard too many voices in our head, and wandered off the track. The possibility we saw so clearly as children got lost in the downward spiral, and we forgot the promise of our birth.

How fascinating!

Look around. This day, these people in your life, a baby’s cry, an upcoming meeting—suddenly, they seem neither good nor bad. They shine forth brilliantly as they are. Awake restored! … to the dream revived.

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