In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.
These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.
The Seventh Practice: The Way Things Are
In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss how to be present with the way things are, including our feelings about how things are. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:
There are two typical reactions to the way things are. One is the hopeless resignation, and the other is the spluttering resistance from us. Neither extreme is practical, so we need to find a way to take us in the direction we say we want to go.
The calculating self faces such experience and asks, “Why hang around and feel like a sucker?” The central self will expand and develop with each new experience. First, the central self asks, “What is here now?” Next, it will immediately ask, “What else is here now?”
Being present with the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in a resigned manner. It does not mean we should drown out our negative feelings or pretend we like the situation. It also does not mean we should do something dramatic to transcend the negativity.
Being present means acknowledging the situation and working with what we have. When we practice being present without resistance, we are freed to turn to the follow-on question, “What do we want to do from here?” When we start to ponder such a question, pathways and possibilities begin to present themselves.
The practice of being with the way things are calls upon us to distinguish between our assumptions, our feelings, and the current realities. When we encounter difficult situations, we must be clear about the circumstances. There are four things to watch out for:
- Being with the Way Things Are by Clearing “Shoulds”
- Being with the Way Things Are by Closing the Exits: Escape, Denial, and Blame
- Being with the Way Things Are by Clearing Judgement
- Being with the Way Things Are by Distinguishing Physical from Conceptual Reality
One potential trap when practicing being with the way things are is the downward spiral talk. The downward spiral talk stands for a resigned way of speaking that excludes possibilities. Many roadblocks and obstacles along the way are just present conditions. One way to counter the downward spiral talk is to ask, “Are we describing the way things are accurately?”
Being with the way things are calls for an expansion of ourselves. We start from what is, not from what should be. We can learn to deal with contradictions, painful feelings, and fears without fleeing or blaming. We can also learn to look past the obstacles or present conditions and focus on the next step that can lead to the place where we would like to be.