A Coaching Power Tool created by Kagunda Chege
(Corporate & Leadership Coach, KENYA)
All things are possible until they are proven impossible.
Pearl S. Buck
All human beings are born with an innate desire to be secure – secure from physical danger, secure from the possibility of failing to meet life’s basic needs, secure in our love relations, secure in our knowledge of the future and so on. Our body responds to our mental state of security. For example, when our mind labels something as being dangerous, we immediately go into fight or-flight mode. Our bodies become tense, and our mind focuses on our options in fighting or taking flight.
As life would have it, though, that security is not given. As soon as a baby drops from the mother’s womb insecurity begins and on sensing this the baby utters its first cry. The new environment is uncomfortable. This insecurity continues through most of life with most of us wondering what tomorrow will bring. None is ever sure of the future.
Security would be better illustrated by a mirage. When a pilgrim is in the desert, not too far ahead there appears to be a pool of water. Thirsty and dehydrated, the pilgrim yearns for it and hurries towards it. Lo and behold, the water seems to move further and further, keeping almost the same distance, hence the pilgrim will never get to really taste of the water, because there was no water in the first instance! Security is but an illusion that keeps us chasing after the wind with no end and no real satisfaction coming our way.
The thing that most of us miss is the fact that in the inherent insecurity lies all manner of possibilities. In that open space of not knowing what tomorrow will bring lies the vast field in which the mind can play and dance, creating different possible outcomes, choosing one and then seeking to influence situations and circumstances to favor the desired outcome.
Possibility is defined as the state or fact of being likely. The word in common language carries no significance as it simply expresses the idea that something is possible. However, when used in the coaching context, the word implies what one can make happen. It carries with it an intention to act in order to bring about what is likely. This concept was captured well by
Mahatma Gandhi when he said:
Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.
Possibility is based on the belief that something can happen, and if it can happen, it is within one’s capacity to influence its happening. It leads one to move in the direction of the desired end, including taking necessary steps, and risks, to accomplish what is desired. It involves investing energy, time, and other resources to make the desired end a reality.
What Possibility is Not!
Possibility is not ability. Ability is having capacity to achieve or do something. It makes the achievement just a reality waiting to happen. Ability is completely in one’s control, what remains is the choice to apply or not apply that ability.
Possibility is not certainty. Certainty is when one is 100% sure of something; it precludes failure or the possibility that whatever is desired may not happen. Certainty eliminates any possibility of failure and implies that all factors have been controlled to deliver the desired outcome.
Possibility is not chance. Chance is like flipping a coin; the flipper has absolutely no control over the outcome. With chance, the only decision one makes is whether to take the chance or not to.
Working with Possibilities
To work with possibilities requires that one appreciates what the potential outcome is, which in this case would be the desired or preferable outcome. Fully aware that this outcome is not guaranteed, one then chooses to deploy resources at their disposal to make it a reality. It is more like looking at an apple on a tree. If you decide you want the apple, because the apple will not fall down of its own accord, you then have to employ the means at your disposal to make the apple come to you.
Working with possibilities is a choice one makes. At the point of decision, the question changes from ‘whether-or’ to ‘how’. That is the beginning of working with possibilities. It removes the focus from the seeming challenges or impossibilities to action – the action necessary to turn possibility to reality.
Moving into action then means planning: assessing what one has going for them (enablers) and what they have working against them (challenges). A strategy to maximize enablers and mitigate against challenges is then developed. This will include filling gaps, acquiring additional resources, or simply addressing internal fears.
Helping a Client Work with Possibilities
In helping a client work with possibilities, it would be important to first surface the underlying hindrances to moving forward as well as the implication of choosing security. Then, help the client visualize the desired outcome, making it so vivid that the seeming barriers diminish in view of the reality of the future. Having helped the client with the necessary motivation, moving them to a point of action, help them appreciate the enablers and challenges, then come up with an action plan to turn the possibility into a reality.
Questions that a coach could use with a client include:
- Assuming everything worked out as you would want, what is it you would want to define your reality in (one month, a year, or some other appropriate future date)?
- What is it right now that keeps you from realizing this desired future?
- If you do nothing about your current situation, how will that look like in (that future time)?
- What opportunities do you see for growth in overcoming the barriers in your way?
- What action can you take to benefit from these opportunities?
- What support would you need, and from who, to enable you to take this action?
All things are possible until they are proven impossible. The only way to prove something is impossible is to give it our best shot and, only when we fail, can we say it is not possible within our limited resources. This does not mean, however that it is impossible. It is possible that, perhaps given additional resources, or with additional knowledge, we can still make it happen. Ultimately then, anything remains possible outside the realms of our immediate knowledge and resources.
Many people do not realize their full potential because they do not indulge their imagination to define possibilities for themselves, or they are afraid to act on these possibilities. The allure of the security offered by not moving into possibilities is, in reality, nothing more than a mirage. It is the Coach’s role to help their clients move into possibilities by making this reality clear, helping them define requisite action, and supporting them to move into action to realize these possibilities.