by George Pitagorsky
Possibility is the condition of being possible. When something is possible it is within the limits of ability, capacity or realization; it can be conceived, take place or be done. When we say "possibilities" we can mean that something has potential value, as in "That Company has great possibilities".
With possibilities there are no assurances. Probabilities determine how likely and under what conditions possibilities can be realized. But probabilities are based on opinion, they are guesses and often the guesses are skewed by attitudes and beliefs. Probabilities can also be changed by changing the conditions that promote the possibilities.
If you open to a possibility then you can find a practical way to promote it without being attached to the outcome. You can improve the probability. For example, you can open to the idea that optimal performance can be attained in a practical way, for yourself and in your organizations. You can then set the stage for a positive outcome.
Stop Creating Problems
However, the mind is very good at creating problems and ignoring or obscuring possibilities. For example, when people start to meditate, ostensibly for the purpose of calming down, they often make a big deal of it and exert a great deal of tense effort. Instead of calming down they get more up tight.
Similarly, organizations and communities experience the same kind of thing when they want to improve their performance. What is being done to make things smoother, more fluid and open to continuous improvement, bogs down into tension, blaming and unnecessary or misguided effort. This leads to abandoning the possibility of achieving the goal. It is perceived as being impossible.
Possibilities are made into problems because people become attached. The attachment creates tension and the tension reduces the probability of success.
Step Back and See the Possibilities
To avoid the tendency of making problems out of possibilities, step back for a moment to see what you are doing and how effective (or ineffective) it is. As soon as you can see the situation clearly, momentarily free from being totally absorbed in it, reacting, then you can open to new possibilities and let go of old unproductive habits and beliefs.
For example, it is possible to stop the habit of self recrimination when you fail to achieve a goal or fall short of an expectation. You can accept and investigate your past performance and its causes so that you can achieve your future goals, without wasting energy by reacting in anger or disappointment. Some meditators often get angry or depressed when they see how many times they become distracted by their own thoughts. The habit of judging, based on an attachment to wanting things to be as they "should be," kicks in and causes even more distraction and tension. With a step back, the meditator can see how ridiculous it is to be doubly distracted. In a moment of objectivity, the possibility of accepting the fact that the mind needs a bit more taming and letting go of feelings of failure can come to the surface. One can see that simply being able to know that one is distracted is in itself a significant accomplishment, considering that many people are in a constant and unacknowledged state of distraction all the time.
In organizations, there is the possibility that blaming and hopelessness ("we can't do that here, this is the way we are") can be banished from the culture and replaced by candid, analytical, open minded exploration of shortfalls as well as positive experiences. The same can be applied to relationships or individual performance in any art, craft or field.
Awareness of possibilities results in options. Attractive options motivate the healthy effort needed to bring them about. However, when one opens to possibilities, it means opening to the negative possibilities as well as the positive. Negative occurrences are not to be ignored. Instead, open to them, analyze them and identify how you can learn from them to promote the positive and reduce the probability of the negative.
The key point is that while working to realize the possibility of perfection, either your own or the perfection of an organization or team or relationship, it is possible to achieve optimal (i.e., highly effective, efficient, flexible, continuously improving) performance. Optimal performance begins with becoming increasingly open to all the possibilities, understanding how you can work to set the conditions for positive outcomes and taking what comes with the attitude that whatever it is, you can accept it, and grow from it.
© 2012 Pitagorsky Consulting