"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement." — Golda Meir
According to a scientific study, evolutionary ecologists believe that horseflies don’t bite zebras because the stripes throw off the reflected polarized light that normally indicates a potential meal. I won’t pretend to understand the science behind it, but the idea is this: the horseflies don’t see what’s right in front of them because it doesn’t look like what they think they’re looking for.
This same kind of thing happens to us in our everyday lives. We sometime become so focused on what we think is important that we miss what’s right in front of us—distracted by conflicting responsibilities and wind up losing sight of what’s really important.
To break free from the limiting beliefs and behaviors requires an open mind to consider all the possibilities. General George S. Patton once said:
“Successful generals make plans to fit circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans.”
In other words, an open mind allows us to see possibilities beyond our preconceived notions. There’s a story I often think about that encourages me to practice possibility thinking:
A playing card company was founded in Japan in 1889, and they were quite successful for a number of years, but by the 1950’s they wanted to grow the company beyond the Japanese market, so the president scheduled a meeting with the largest playing card manufacture in the world: the U.S. Playing Card Company. That meeting was a wake up call, because the executive discovered that the largest manufacture of playing cards in the world operated out of a teeny tiny office! He recognized that the kind of growth that his company wanted to experience was not possible if they stuck to manufacturing playing cards, so instead of trying to create circumstances to fit their plans, they got to work experimenting with other possibilities. Before long the company began finding success in the manufacturing of electronic games and toys, which over the ensuing decades snowballed into what we know today as the multibillion-dollar video game company Nintendo.
If the Nintendo Playing Card Company—which was their original name when they were founded in 1889—had ignored the changing circumstances there is no way that they could have experienced the kind of explosive growth that they did. They recognized that there was no sense in trying to create circumstances to fit their plans so they adopted the mindset of possibility thinking to create new plans to fit the reality of their circumstances.
This Magic Word Possibility reminds us to keep an open mind and be on the lookout for possibilities beyond our preconceived notions. If we do, and if we follow through with it every day, just imagine what will be possible!
What’s your zebra? What possibilities have you overlooked because you’ve been looking but not seeing what’s right in front of you?
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.