Do you feel stuck as a consequence of earlier choices you've made? Do you feel there's little possibility for change in your life?
If so, try asking yourself the following question from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander—
What assumption am I making
That I'm not aware I'm making
That gives me what I see?
What is your current assumption about the possibility for positive change in your life?
In what way can you change this assumption so that creating positive change becomes possible?
When I grew up in the United States, Hallowe'en as a child was a wonderful time. We could become all sorts of magical creatures— and go out on a dark night, knocking on spooky-looking doors and wondering whether there were witches or ghosts hiding behind tall shrubbery. Friends might be unrecognizable, and normally silent streets were alive with the sounds of swishing fabric, excited whispers, and eerie hoots and cries. A sheet became the flapping of a ghost, a stick covered in aluminum foil a wand, an old oak tree part of a haunted forest.
In other words, the Hallowe'en world we were in made it less possible to make verifiable assumptions about who was whom or what was what. That was a big part of the thrill of that holiday— being caught off guard and entering into the mysterious realm of unknown potential. So our world expanded from that of daily life— that is, what could be seen and what was expected— to a different place where possibilities were legion and being out of the box the norm.
I see Halloween as a vivid and spacious metaphor for the creative and often unsettling experience of making transitions to positive changes in our lives. As The Art of Possibility states, "The frames our minds create define— and confine— what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and the problems vanish, while new opportunities appear."
Consider the Hallowe'en spirit from a child's experience. My older great godson, Edgar, age 4, from Sweden, celebrated his first Hallowe'en at my California home this year. He and his family had to leave earlier than the traditional date of October 31st, so we just changed the date. We didn't have other homes for him to go trick or treating, so we created a Hallowe'en world in the backyard with flapping ghosts, entangling spider webs, and special stations where he solved puzzles to collect his treats.
Fortunately, Edgar is the kind of person who says "Yes!" to almost every new choice for action that he encounters, and he wanted to do Hallowe'en as a pirate. And here's where the challenge lay—to be a full-fledged pirate, he needed a boat, he decided. A BIG pirate boat. As the organizer, I felt some dismay and possibly at a dead end. Would we have to find a kayak and haul it home? Would he demand black sails, as well? But it was unthinkable that we could refuse him his legitimate desire as a pirate to have the boat he required.
And then The Art of Possibility came through with another very appropriate question—What might I now invent, That I haven't yet invented, That would give me other choices?
Finally, I recalled a cardboard box sitting in the garage. But it wasn't BIG. And I couldn't think how it would move with him in it. Fortunately, his father found some rope and taped it around the box. We pasted pirate pictures on it and presented it to Edgar with a flourish as his BIG BOAT. To my unmitigated relief, he was fully able to step into a fun, imaginative framework that allowed the rather small box to become a BIG BOAT. He sat in the box, which moved smoothly over the ground as the volunteer pirate crew pulled him wherever he ordered.
So what can we learn from this Hallowe'en experience about positive change-making?
1) Challenge your assumption that a new choice is not possible (it's going to be hard to find a BIG boat for a young pirate in a limited amount of time for a modest price)
2) Create a new framework that's more open to possibilities (I can make this work, somehow—borrow a kayak? or hmm, how about a cardboard box?)
3) Be ready to say "Yes" and try out a new possibility, even if it's not exactly the solution you imagined (thank you, Edgar, for being ready to accept on trial a box with a rope as your pirate ship)
4) Turn a new choice into a new lifestyle (yes, I can accept a cardboard box with a rope around it as my pirate ship, IF it includes a crew to pull me around wherever I want)
Whatever your challenge around creating a positive change in your life may be, learn to check out your assumption that's getting in your way. Then you can re-frame your situation into one with more spaciousness and potential to lead you toward the change you truly desire.