A Coaching Power Tool By Irene Chen, Career Coach, TAIWAN
Possible vs. Definitive Creating a Golden Path to Success
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859
Nowadays, everything can easily turn into a competition. From work, school grades, family, social status, all apply. When it comes to competition, there are always 2 sides, and almost everyone wants to be on the side of “winning”. The exhilaration of winning may only last for a few seconds, or days maybe, however, the sticker of failure seems to stay longer, for some people, it’s even transformed from an action to an identity.
Are You Running Away From Failures or Moving Towards Success?
From what I have witnessed and experienced, most people were driven by the fear of loss instead of the desire for success, for the “sticker” of success looked so much fancier than that of failure to “win” the sticker, most of us were desperate to find out “how”. As an old saying like, there is a single way to achieve success but multiple ways of causing failure, therefore, it seems like there is a “perfect model” to success and winning, and once you follow with that, step by step, a great result will be assured accordingly. This is the exact thought “frames” our mindset and the way we see the world and people around us.
There seems like a golden path to success and a great life. As been taught by parents since a little kid, having good grades would help you get into great schools, colleges, and universities. And then followed by a dream job that almost guarantees a wonderful life afterward. Once you embark on this journey, taking every step well designed in advance, nothing needs to be worried and it sounds perfect and fantastic. The fear of falling off this track makes us stay even closer to this route with a fixed mindset and taking definitive procedures to ensure that positive results will happen eventually. This also squeezes out the flexibility and space which we can save for ourselves for adjustment and self-reflection and finally pushes us to the corner.
What if there are also multiple ways leading to success? Or diversified perspectives to define success? Just like taking direct flights may save you time while taking transfers would allow you with opportunities to visit other cities and you still get to arrive at the destination after all. When considering all possibilities, results might remain the same and yet, the process could become more exciting.
Possible vs. Definitive Explanation
If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as a possibility? Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, Either/Or
Possible, [pos-uh-buhl], adjective
- Still open, not excluded, not too late
- Able to be done or achieved
- May or can be, exist, happen, be done, be used
Being open to possibilities is just like holding a key to unlock the gate, behind that gate, lies opportunities waiting to flourish. It is you to decide whether to hold that key. As said in Cambridge Dictionary, “able to be done or achieved”, just lights up hope and energy, motivates you to overcome challenges and move towards your goal.
Then what could be behind that gate? Here reminds me of the LEGO games that most of us used to play since we were kids, or even now, as adults. With the same quantity of blocks, we can create multiple works, from cars, trucks, bridges, buildings to airplanes, all you can imagine, since there are no rules of building blocks and the outcomes only rely on your creativity. Like the old saying, “All roads lead to Rome”, the beauty of it is that you will have the chance to encounter with diversified people, visit different scenery and landscape, taste great food of all flavors. Therefore, all of us end up arriving at the same destination while we all have distinctive experiences, none of these is less wonderful than the other, they are mutual-exclusive and yet, all fabulous.
Most of us would look for a user manual for life, work or relationship, unfortunately, this is not something “one fits for all”, it is something dynamic and volatile and changes or incidents would happen just over seconds. Maybe the best way to deal with the unknown is to stay unknown, stay open to possibilities. How about we transform this “user manual” into a notebook, while inside are all blank pages waiting to be filled with your ideas and plans. No rules, no guidelines, don’t even have to start from the first page, you can even start from the middle of the notebook if you wish. Stay possible and welcome all the possibilities.
Definitive, [dih-fin-i-tiv], adjective
- Firm, final and complete
- Not able to be changed or questioned
- Satisfying all criteria
Like what Medieval alchemists do, they tried to find a way to change ordinary metals into gold, worked so hard to perform this magic, therefore, materials, time, ways of brewing, those all matter, just to find the “right”, “fixed” and “precise” formula to repeatedly deliver the same outcome, gold. With time evolved, nowadays, when performing experiments, we have even more sophisticated types of equipment to assist control elements, such as humidity, temperature, time, dust, etc., to elevate the accuracy and efficiency. Here comes the key factor, no room for mistakes, otherwise, there won’t be “gold”.
Or rather easier, like the mathematical equation, 1+1=2, if you change any figure then you will have a different result. This linear equation indicates that if you want a specific outcome, follow the sequence, apply all factors required, and add up your time and efforts, then, a desirable output will be displayed. Let me ask you one thing, abide by this rule, do you dare to challenge it? Or would you be brave enough to make mistakes? What if you truly did something wrong, broke the rules, is it the end of the world? Well, I figure the answer would be “Yes”, remember? no room for mistakes.
But why? It is safer to fit in the standardized pattern, frame, or path and seek correct answers. A lot similar to what we used to work on during exams and tests, we were asked to fill in the blank with “correct” answers.
Being raised in Asian culture, the way it worked depicted my story as well. Since I was a little girl, I had been told to obey the standard path, go to a top college, get a “good” job, the good job here refers to, teacher, civil servant, lawyer, etc., and then married to a “good” husband, meaning, rich, owns the property, high social status, and having 2 kids, better to be a girl and a boy, then you will be living a perfect life. I was like, why? Then I spend the whole college years discovering the path I desire, which contradicted the standard, fought with my family for the freedom to be different, or to derail from the right track. It was hard, exhausted and with many fights and arguments, but it was all worthy, I felt so relieved and had such a huge realization of my life. And that was the first time that I understand, not following the “correct trajectory” won’t be the end of the world and even you did, no perfect outcome will be guaranteed. Once you untie the knot, you will realize what drives you forward would be a passion, instead of fear. So, the mistake won’t kill you, derailment do you no harm, just some sparkles adding on, makes your life even more exhilarating.
4 Exercises to Learn From the Power and Magic of Being Possible
Well, I won’t tell you it is just as easy as switching on or off, it takes practices to be there, to stay possible. Here are 4 exercises you can take to learn from the power and magic of being possible.
Learning From Success
Hold on, haven’t I just spent the whole paragraph explaining no fixed path to success, then why do we still need to learn from success in the past? Normally, successful experiences give us confidence and self-trust and which, generate the courage to challenge the status quo and the standardized pattern. Furthermore, understanding and collecting successful factors help build up your “success repository”, the higher the “coverage rate” it is, the less worry and the more flexible you would be when dealing with difficulties.
Worst Scenario Simulation
This is a “what if” exercise. What if I mess up? What if it doesn’t work? Finish the question with your answers, list down all consequences or any situation that could happen accordingly. What impact would that be on you, your team, the organization, or society? What solution would you think of to tackle those issues or troubles and most important of all, how would you do it differently next time? This is not “trouble-shooting” practice, this is to demonstrate if there are so many ways for things to go wrong, similarly, there will be plenty of ways to make things right. And when you figure out you have multiple choices for accomplishing the success, why ask yourself to follow a definitive route?
Learn How to Fail
Yes, you hear me just right. We have only been told to learn how to succeed, from school education to adult learning, never about how to fail. No one likes to fail, but do you know how to fail? Are you capable of interpreting failure and learning from that? Here are 2 things to work on, firstly, to be ok with the term, “fail”, because it’s something normal in daily life, happens to everyone and not something that would corner you. Secondly, find out what would failure do to you, both positively and negatively. Wait, can it be positive? Sure, to think about how you could learn from that, isn’t that positive? And tell yourself to stay away from negative thoughts, maybe to start with asking yourself, “is it true?” Just like you need to squat down before jumping, after learning how to fail then you can capture the essence of success.
Blank Map Practice
Remember the blank notebook mentioned earlier? Draw yourself a map, with only starting point and the destination, here refers to your goal, leave all the rest blank. Then, write or list down all the routes or ways you can take or have to reach the goal. The more you can generate here, the higher possibilities you would have. The more you practice, the more you are skilled to discover potentials. See, no fixed path here, remember, “All roads lead to Rome”, here is the case!
Choose Possible vs. Definitive to Focus On What Is Within Your Control
Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; adversity is not without many comforts and hopes. Francis Bacon, Philosopher
Everything is with a flip side and it’s totally up to you for which side you would like to pick. You can choose the definitive path to seek the sense of security, making no room for the wrong, and no room for the fun as well. Of course, you can choose to stay possible, stay open, although no fixed outcome would be promised, which also indicates anything could happen. What you choose to focus on grows.
I remembered when I started to learning baking chiffon cake, I spent such a long time searching for the best recipe. And it turned out there were tons of recipes to make great chiffon cakes and there’s no such thing called “the best” since we all have different preferences to flavor and texture. I was lost in “finding the right one” but not knowing what’s making me feel comfortable and confident to bake a chiffon cake I like. And I am so sure, there will be more than just one since our appetites differ from time to time. Just like I enjoy watching Jamie Oliver cooking all the time, he never measured ingredients precisely, and ways of cooking varied from time to time, and yet, it never damaged the taste of the food and mostly, the passion for cooking. Cause even when we are cooking the same dish, sometimes we just prefer sourer than sweet today, and maybe we want that to be sweeter the other day. If you find yourself getting stuck next time, think about the analogy of cooking or baking, which might help you unlock the gate, where possibilities lie behind.
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Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game. Portfolio
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Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.HarperCollins
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Barnes & Noble Classics
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Francis Bacon, Philosopher