Let’s face it – the world is a daunting place, especially these days. But whether you’re normally a ‘glass half full’ or a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, remaining positive is a challenge.
What if we were able to switch our focus from trying to be positive all the time, to just seeing the possibility for what could be? Sure, this still takes a degree of positivity, but it’s a shift of mindset that will increase our ability to take action and improve our circumstances.
If you think feelings of alarm and anxiety are bubbling up inside of you without even thinking about it, that’s because they are. A great deal of human behavior is governed by a neurological mechanism called the “threat and reward” response. Neuroscientist Evian Gordon refers to this as the, “minimize danger, maximize reward” response.
Neurons are activated and released as an individual learns whether the new thing facing them is a chance for reward or has the potential for danger. If the brain perceives danger, the response becomes a pure threat response – you may be more familiar with this as the fight or flight response.
The brain uses this principle to sort our world into the threat or reward categories.
Change – even when it’s something we want – often gets sorted by the brain into the threat category because we lack clarity on how to get there.
A recent client at a global consulting firm was struggling in her role. The dread she felt toward work had gone from setting in on Sunday at 3 p.m. to starting on Saturday night. When I asked her what she would do if she didn’t work in the job, she laughed off her dream of writing a book because, “writing doesn’t pay the bills,” and then mentioned a connection she’d made to someone in a desired role at a networking event followed by, “but every organization has dysfunction and I’m too exhausted to start over. At least staying in my current job is the devil I know.”
She was talking herself out of making any movement toward improving her situation.
Sound familiar? This is common, but a shift in mindset towards seeing the possibility, can change everything.
Do you find yourself using phrases such as, “It’s not that bad. People have it worse…” or “Why can’t I just be happy with…?”
Do you follow it up with, “At least I have a job,” or, “It’s better than being alone,” or, “It’s just not a good time to make a change.” These are all common phrases used to talk yourself out of the possibility of positive change.
Of course, someone out there has it worse than you, but these comments are undermining your purpose and keeping you firmly locked into a less-than-fulfilling life.
Practice seeing possibility as a means to train the brain to see a potential reward in the situation and thus, take action towards getting unstuck.
To shift your mindset and practice seeing the possibility in a situation you can: shift the question, go crazy and find an expander.
1. Shifting the question means asking a positively loaded question instead of a negatively loaded question. For example, instead of asking, “what’s the worst that could happen?” Ask “what’s the best possible outcome?”
2. Go crazy. Push yourself to see what you can imagine and how that possibility could influence your life. Finish the sentence, “wouldn’t it be crazy if…” Think of the most fantastical way things could go your way. Now, what can you do to influence the odds that they do?
3. An expander is someone who shows you what’s possible because they are doing it themselves. Who inspires you? Who are you slightly jealous of or competitive with? Meet your expander. Instead of turning away with envy, take a studied look at what they are doing. In this case, it’s perfectly okay to take a page from someone else’s book.
Speaking of that, the client whose wildest dream was to write a book; she’s doing it. She shifted her mindset, saw the possibility and now she’s working towards her dream. And you can, too.
What’s one thing you’re doing today to see possibility?