Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's Possible

Sometimes the best thing that you can do for someone is to simply let her know that what at the moment seems impossible is possible. You don't have to tell him how. You don't have to tell her why. All you need to do is let him know.

Simple theory, but in practice?

Remember, we're not talking about "telling" them; we're talking about "letting them know". It's different.

Before getting down to how to let them know, let's talk about why the impossible-to-possible transition is so significant.

All said and done, pretty much anyone can do anything that he truly desires. Sure, there's the 0.00001% of things that fall outside those parameters. However, hypothetical examples of the impossible, though plausible, are statistically insignificant, typically uttered only by contrarians and naysayers, and only effective when employed with someone who has not yet developed the art of thinking. So, excluding the contrarian, naysaying, distracting hypothetical arguments, there's nothing that anyone truly desires that they can't actually obtain. (I know what some of you are thinking.)

You might have noted the phrase "truly desires". In addition to eliminating the statistically insignificant cases of can't, you want to eliminate the all too frequent cases of won't. Forget about statements of want uttered in flights of whimsy. Ignore even passionately uttered statements of desire that lack the company of commensurate action.

OK, the "commensurate action" part is problematic; action and desire are a bit chicken-and-egg. Oftentimes, commensurate action only commences once the impossible-to-possible transition has been made. For now, I'll leave it up to you to determine whether or not the desire is there. (Note: If you don't get hung up on the idea that some things might be impossible, then the desire part is less important.)

More Than Words
So, how do you let them know? Simply saying so doesn't always work and for some it never works. Why? If you're someone who often finds things impossible, then it's unlikely that others will believe you when you tell them, "I know you can do it! Nothing is impossible!"

Communicating it's possible starts with you. Where are you on the possibility scale? How many tables have you turned from impossible to possible? How do you react to letdowns and setbacks? All these speak louder than any stream of words you can spill.

If you're someone who regularly conquers impossibility or who only sees possibilities, the next thing to do is to focus on action not assets. One of the biggest mistakes people make when encouraging others is to point out their talents, skills and strengths. You might be thinking, "What are you talking about? If you want to encourage someone, draw attention to their assets."

Actions, Not Assets
The problem is that assets are a house of cards. What happens if one of the assets is removed? What happens if the person whom you're encouraging doesn't buy into your assessment? What if they don't have the assets you consider critical?

Listing someone's assets is a quick fix, but it lacks staying power. If you want to be someone who helps overcome impossible, focus on action not assets. Rather than saying of course you can do it, you have amazing talent, say something like anyone can do it if they really want to, all you have to do is to break it down into steps....

Break It Down
The key to overcoming the impossible is to takes something overwhelmingly big and make it small. When you do so, overwhelmingly big becomes inspiringly big.

If the subject matter is familiar, breaking down a big impossibility is simple; it's easy to teach something that you really understand. If not, it's still quite doable. The key is not to advise, but to facilitate by asking questions. Help the overwhelmed one identify steps along the way.

So you want to have your own business... So you want to ski in the Olympics... So you want to play rock guitar... So you want to climb Everest... What do need in order to do that?

Start with identifying the components. It doesn't matter that they're in order. If someone wants to start a business, it's fine if they identify the advertising budget before they have a product idea. Climbing Everest can start with recruiting Sherpas. The goal is to identify as many pieces as you can. You don't have to identify all of them and likely won't.

Build It Up
The more work I do with developmental challenges, the more I realize that it all comes down to sequencing. You wouldn't believe how many impossibilities can be converted to possibilities if you identify just one missing step in a developmental sequence and plug it in.

Developmental sequences are series of progress benchmarks such as 1) roll-over, 2) lift yourself, 3) crawl, 4) walk, 5) run. You can identify a developmental sequence for pretty much anything you do.

Lately, I've been helping people overcome personal impossibilities simply by identifying the developmental piece-parts, putting them into order and figuring out which one(s) is missing or incomplete.

A young woman struggles with Algebra. No matter how hard she tries, no matter how much help she receives, she just can't do it. As we talk, it becomes clear that she hesitates when multiplying two numbers, hesitates to the point of completely interrupting her algebraic flow. She has all the algebraic concepts, she just hasn't nailed the multiplication table.

A friend struggles with rhythm and keeping a beat. He understands all the principles and can hear when something is on and when it's off. What's missing? I watch him play the drums. Each time he hits the snare drum, his entire upper body leans to the left as though he were playing from his waste. His challenge isn't rhythm, it's fine motor control.

Most impossibilities stem back to one or two missing developmental steps. Each impossibility is itself a step along the way to another. Once you've broken down the big impossibility and organized the pieces into developmental sequences, all you have to do is work on the missing or underdeveloped ones. If they're too big, all you have to do is break them down and sequence the new pieces.

Piece by piece, you build toward possible.

Note: It makes absolutely no sense to work on a dependent step once you've identified a missing or incomplete step on which it depends.

What Exactly?
The beauty of getting past impossible is that once you remove impossible as a reason not to do something, the something often morphs becoming something more desirable and obtainable.

Impossibility clouds vision; removing it provides clarity. When you see clearly, it's easier to manipulate what you see.

"Seeing what it would take to become an Olympic skier, I now realize that I'd prefer to be a really good local skier, maybe even a ski instructor."

"Now that I know I could be a rock star, I realize that I really don't want that kind of life. I'd rather play in clubs around town or at church."

"Now that I see my way to raising millions in venture capital, I'd rather go it on my own and start with something small that I can fund myself."

Removing the cloud of impossibility sheds new light that often results in a change of desire.

Happy Wednesday,

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