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The Art of Possibility

The Art of Possibility

Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander

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It’s all invented

We all live our lives with some accepted notions on how to act, behave and think. We believe in certain things as being possible based on the rules of how (we believe) the world works. But in reality, a lot of these accepted rules are only our assumptions. We don’t see the world as it is but on the basis of our biases. Our perspective seriously restricts our options. In order to free ourselves from these self-imposed crutches, we need to be aware of them. 

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The Question

In order to be aware, we must ask ourselves at every point;

“What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see?”

The idea is to identify your wrong assumptions and act on accurate ones. It’s about actually seeing the world for the way it is.  Let’s begin by acknowledging some common assumptions;

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The chosen one

The greatest of our assumptions is that we are in some way all important. Everything and everyone revolves around us. It’s best not to take yourself so seriously. No one else does. When in relation with yourself, give yourself your due. But when in relationship with external things, give precedence to causal relationships.

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The world of measurement

We measure ourselves as opposed to something. The truth is we are ends in ourselves and that comparison with anything is not worthwhile or warranted. The truth is comparison is only possible among things that are in essence the same and in reality truly nothing is inherently the same. It’s best to live your life outside the limited confines of comparison. And if you truly want to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

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Give everyone an A

We all have biases about people based on our first impressions, their appearance, etc. Similarly we tend to account any negative action as arising from a negative character. The idea is not to look at the perceived negatives even in a bad situation and give people the benefit of the doubt. To think that people are inherently good and want to do what’s right. This enables us to see the other person in a positive light and in most cases no one is inherently evil; you will be amazed at the outcomes of many a interaction with this slight shift in perspective.

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Leading from any chair

We all perceive our position in a perceived hierarchy as a measure of our ability to make an impact. We must understand it isn’t the chair that gives power; but the ability to take action. And that ability exists, no matter where we find ourselves.

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Gain and loss

The idea is that in doing anything we in turn gain something for ourselves or lose something. But in reality the world does not have such a black and white view of things. At most times the greatest thing you can do is to do things, you have an ability to do without thinking of the end result.  

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Gain and loss - Real world example

To really drive the point home, let’s take the example of an argument with a friend. You could take it as a conflict in which one of you has to win or lose, in such a scenario you would focus on finding the best arguments and actions to defeat your perceived opponent and beat him into submission. But in this we lose sight of what’s really important, that being friendship. But in turn if you shift your focus to that of valuing your friendship over everything else, you would be able to have a discussion with your friend in such a way; you both walk away from this situation even better friends.

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Seeing reality

The idea is to break through your assumptions and see reality for what it is really without bias or emotion. Then it is accepting it for what it is. It is taking a bad event and taking responsibility for your part in it and letting go of everything else. It is in one hand, to identify non-negotiable absolutes, accept them and work your way up from there. But in reality, there are very few absolutes.

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Redefining reality

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?"

And then you can invent spaces, narratives and beliefs so that instead of hindering you; enables you to reach for your goals.

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Redefining reality - An example

For example the idea of giving everyone an A is an invented story which takes the place of the common narrative the world is out to get you and people are inherently bad. In this framework, you treat people kindly which in most cases would in turn have them reciprocate. Nothing about the situation changes but your actions and thoughts change due to your viewpoint.

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Conclusion

Similarly in almost every case, when you find yourself in a box while trying to do something. You will be amazed to find the box mostly imaginary. Once you notice it, the box disappears. This leaves you free to achieve your goal. But in a similar way, if you find it hard to reach a height; we may imagine a box to stand on to extend our reach.

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CURATED BY

The world is a certain way because we have been trained to see it a certain way. This book tells you there is a choice and we can always see things differently. And that idea in itself is revolutionary.

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