Thursday, July 5, 2012

Impossibility, Myth or Fiction

One thing I know for sure. You can't do the impossible generally until you're learned to do it specifically, i.e., specifically with yourself.

Impossible is a kind of funny term in that it's definitionally ridiculous. Its nature is absolute; it's a superlative of sorts; something is impossible or it's not. There is nothing that is kind of impossible just as there is nothing that is kind of perfect or kind of unique.

Impossible is a theoretical construct no different from 100% or 0% probabilities in statistics. (If anyone tells you that statistically speaking, there is a 100% probability of something occurring, then they don't understand the nature of statistics.)

Nonetheless we tend to apply this theoretical concept to real-world situations. To make the misapplication of the term more palatable we contextualize its use. We use it generally only when we're sure that no one would disagree, (e.g.,  time travel is impossible), but even then you never no when no one might be in the room. We use it specifically based on the person or the situation, e.g., "that would be impossible for me right now", or, "given our financial circumstances, it would be impossible."

Providing a reason for something being impossible makes impossible easier to swallow. Having stripped it of its absolute nature by creating a context, impossible kind of makes sense. However, this still ignores the fact that impossible is only a theoretical construct. Even in a context that provides reason to believe one can't do something, impossible still doesn't exist.

Ooh... Ooh... I Know the Answer!

Now, here's the problem (at least for me). Whenever someone tells me that it would be impossible for them to do something, my first thought is, "Wait, I know how you could that!"

I explain that by definition nothing is impossible, that "impossible" is only a theoretical construct. I enthusiastically lay out three or four ways they could do the impossible.

You'd think they'd get excited about the possibility.

We'll I'd think it.

However, more often than not the response falls somewhere between incredulous and insulted.  People say things like, "Well that might be the case for you, but...",  or, "You just don't understand how hard it is for me to...", or, "I tried what you're talking about, and...", or  "Who are you to tell me..."

I start to think, "Hmm..., maybe they're right."

I start to think it, but I tend not to believe it. So I enthusiastically forge ahead thinking, "They just don't understand, yet."

After a bit of give and no-take, we finally get to the moment of "truth". They'll say something like, "I'll show you that it's impossible. I'll try it your way and you'll see. I won't be able to do it."

I have two words for this kind of statement: stacked deck.

When someone decides to prove that they can't do something, the odds are pretty darn good that they won't. However, since it's not impossible, I forge ahead.

How You See It

Here's where it gets good.  Every once in a while, I encounter someone who's not using "impossible" as a socially-acceptable proxy for "I don't want to." They actually believe that something that they really want to do is in fact impossible for them. When that's the case, it's a  relatively straight-forward task to transform their impossible to possible.

At that point the only challenge is trust. In my experience the difference between impossible and possible is a matter of approach. If something is impossible for you, then perhaps the problem is how you're going about doing it. My approach is to try another approach. Forget everything that you learned, forget all the ways you've tried, and let's try something completely different.

Here's where the trust part comes in. No matter how badly their approach has been working for them, people are often reluctant to give it up. I don't know if it's vested interest due to all the time spent doing something a certain way. I don't know if it's because some "expert" told them the way to do something, but more often than not, someone will want me to help them improve their current method rather than going with something completely different. They might even say something like, "You don't understand. I have a certain way that I have to do this."

As if that certain way were working.

Nonetheless, every once in a while someone who really does want to do the impossible is willing to trust me enough to try something that may seem completely irrelevant to what they want to accomplish or just ridiculous.

Every once in a while.

Here's the really crazy part. When they do, I've never seen it not work. Impossible not only becomes possible, it becomes silly, like an I-can't-believe-it-was-that-easy kind of silly.

Every once in a while.

I think I'm just the beneficiary of having started out with so many things seeming impossible. I've had a lot of practice working the transformation. Once you see that the transformation is not only possible, but just a matter of viewing things differently, it's almost like you've found a super power.

On the other hand, if you still live in a world where things are impossible for you, it's really unlikely (not impossible) that you'll be able to help people who find things impossible for themselves, at least not generally.

Happy Thursday,

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