How Your Sense of What Is Possible Is Probably Wrong

The best way to move forward is most likely to get out of your own way.


Back when I used to rock-climb a lot, I was constantly learning lessons that applied to the rest of my life. One of those lessons is the possibility expansion principle—the idea that getting out of your own way and reaching for the seemingly impossible can end up expanding your concept of what is possible.

Twice in a short time, I balked at climbing routes I thought were too hard for me (climbing routes are rated by difficulty, and these were rated as harder than I typically climbed). Both times, my climbing partners pushed me to try it, and both times—after a suitable amount of whining—I tried and succeeded. The second one ended up being one of my most fun climbs ever.

After that, I started taking much more of an "I'll try it and see what happens" attitude. I didn't always succeed, but I managed to climb many more difficult routes than I ever would have otherwise.

My success on those routes I was convinced were too hard started to expand my view of what was possible. I stopped limiting myself and gave myself permission to just try it and see. As a result, I started to experience an expanded possibility, which in turn fed what I thought was possible.

It's the same in our careers or any other part of our lives. When we open ourselves to reaching beyond our safe and comfortable sense of possibility, we often find that things that once seemed far beyond our reach become a standard part of the landscape.

"Try it, and see what happens." When we take that approach, we probably won't succeed every time, but if we don't even try, something is guaranteed to happen that's even worse than the occasional flop: nothing.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work and his E-book The Occupational Adventure Guide offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.


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