Possibility Thinking


How far is far; how high is high? We'll never know until we try

The song from The California Special Olympics asks, "How far is far; how high is high?" How far is far? As far as we want to go, as far as our dreams take us. How high is high? As high as our goals, as high as the mountains we climb. Many of the participants of the Special Olympics were inspired by the Serenity Prayer, which says, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Although Serenity-Prayer-thinking has helped many to cope with the struggles they face, for most of us, there seems to be too much emphasis on 'accepting things' and not enough on 'the courage to change' and the 'wisdom to know the difference.' While some call themselves serene, others would describe them as complacent. Sitting on one's butt and watching the world go by is not a description of serenity. Serenity is not freedom from struggle. Rather, it is the peace of heart we attain when we have the courage to face our problems and the wisdom to change our lives for the better.

We are not here to ACCEPT a fate imposed upon us. Rather, we are here to CREATE our fate. True, we all have limitations, and there are differences among us. Perhaps, God in his wisdom has given one marble, another granite, and yet another sandstone to work with. Yet, working with what we have, we are all capable of sculpturing a masterpiece. That's what the participants of the Special Olympics were doing, and that's what we should be doing.

To make our lives living masterpieces, we need to move beyond acceptance, and even positive thinking, to the realm of possibility thinking. We live in a sea frothing with unlimited possibilities. When you consider, as Ray Bradbury has, that "we are an impossibility in an impossible universe," it becomes clear that anything is possible. Space travel and cracking the DNA code are just two of the innumerable achievements of science that were believed to be impossible. The history of science shows that things are only impossible until they're not.

Possibility thinkers aren't concerned about what they are, but what they can be. They are not concerned about the battles they have to face, but with the possibilities they will uncover. Life to them is easier than you may imagine. All one has to do is accept the impossible, do without necessities, and put up with the unbearable. Not much to ask for the exuberance and joy we get with each miracle we do. Possibility thinking, then, is the opposite of dead-end or blocked thinking. It is creative and solution oriented. It moves us forward and frees us from the traps that ensnare cynical, pessimistic, and negative thinkers.

If anything is possible, what can I look forward to happening in my life? That depends on the choices I make and the actions I take. Each day, no, each hour, each moment, we reach into the sea of possibility and decide our fate by the decisions we make and the path we choose to follow. At times, small decisions can have profound effects. Take Helen, a British immigrant, for example. She had a great job working in a University of Toronto research lab. But faced with budget restraints, the university cut their staff, and Helen, in her fifties, was suddenly out of work. The only work she could find was in retail, which paid minimum wages. She had a decision to make. Should she accept this low paying job or continue searching for a better one, while draining her savings in the process?

She decided to accept the job. After work, she would immediately return home to look after her invalid mom. She had been doing so for so long that any chance for romance and marriage eluded her. But now she was no longer behind closed doors in a university lab. Instead, she now had personal contact with customers, hundreds of them each week. Who would have guessed that a successful Japanese businessman would become her customer, her friend, and her husband? Imagine, her mother now lives in her own condominium, next door to Helen and has all her needs looked after. Helen has been to Japan and Hawaii, and is now living a life of almost unbearable happiness. All because she chose to accept a minimum paying job. Helen's story is another example of how what we interpret as a tragic event, such as the loss of a job, can turn out to be a magnificent possibility.

Another friend, who is also an immigrant, would often tell me how nice it would be IF he could return to his native country to visit his relatives and friends and once again feel in his palms the soil he farmed in his childhood with his dad. One day, something happened to him. It was almost like he awakened from a dream. He became a possibility thinker. Instead of telling me how nice it would be IF he had enough money to travel, he suddenly started to explain HOW he would save enough to go. He had discovered many things that he could cut back on, which would lead to considerable savings. He's already been back once and is now preparing for his next visit. If we are to become possibility thinkers, we have to stop saying IF and start telling HOW. It's not a matter of looking for options as much as it is a matter of looking for possibilities.

All my friend did was follow the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, who said, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." What we often call 'impossible' is merely something we have yet to try. How do we know what we can do, or not do, unless we try? By looking for possibilities and trying new things, we break free from our limitations and discover our own power. The following, which was written in 1730 in a church in England, is worthwhile pondering: "A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task is the hope of the world."

The first step in discovering a new possibility is to search for it. Be a seeker, for it is only in seeking that you will find. The reward for seeking is discovery. Remember, as Sophocles (BC 495 ~ 406) taught , "What is unsought will go undetected." After opening our eyes to new possibilities, we need to act. And after doing so, we must persist until we reach our dream. Often, the only difference between the 'possible' and the 'impossible' is persistence. That is, what we call 'impossible' to achieve is merely something we gave up on. The final obstacle, then, is the belief that there is an obstacle.

Don't let those 'big' problems frighten you. Instead, look at things through the eyes of Dale Turner, who wrote, "When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, 'He's so big, we can never kill him.' But David looked at the same giant and thought, 'He's so big, I can't miss him.'" Before we can slay Goliath, we must come to the realization that it is POSSIBLE to do so. From this moment on, let's start filling our lives with possibilities; it's possible, you know!

© Chuck Gallozzi
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