Emily Dickinson wrote the famous verse, “I dwell in possibility.” Unlike the famous poetess, many of us dwell in limitation, using the past as our main referent for the future—i.e. because we’ve have never done it in the past, it will not happen in the future.
Possibility on the other hand allows for unprecedented realities. Something that has never happened can happen simply because it’s possible. We might not know how it will happen, but when we acknowledge the possibility, we are more likely to take the action corresponding to realizing that possibility.
For example, if we think being physically fit is impossible, based on the fact we’ve been unhealthy our whole lives, we won’t do the things necessary to be fit. Conversely, if we believe being fit is possible, even if we don’t know how, we can figure out ways to realize that objective.
There is a dark-side of possibility however. It’s what I call “the narcosis of possibility.” The easiest place to see this is at 12:15AM after a few vodka-sodas. You invent a possibility, like starting a business. You can’t wait to start making it happen. The dude on the next bar-stool is going to design your logo. Any-fucking-thing is possible!
You wake up the next day with a vague recollection of what was so great about your idea. You try to muster the enthusiasm of the night before but are preoccupied by thoughts of coffee, eggs and Law and Order reruns. You think of your lack of business skill, money, etc. Fuck it. It wasn’t that good an idea anyway. Reality trumps drunken possibility once again.
This phenomenon is not limited to buzzed brainstorming. Many sober minds have conjured great ideas that do not withstand reality. We get psyched about a project, relationship, fitness plan, etc., but we fail to deal with things as they are in reality. We don’t acknowledge our level of business training, our emotional maturity (or lack thereof), our state of health, etc. Instead of developing these things, we become overwhelmed by the gap between possibility and reality, often doing nothing. There are others who use willpower and force to bridge that gap—these people can make things happen, but generally at the expense of their health and happiness.
Sometimes we can’t admit that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean we should do it.
Other times we create a possibility aware of the realities we’re dealing with. It’s something we’ve considered well. We have an idea and plan to carry it out. But once the plan is in motion, we don’t ask ourselves often enough, “Is this working?”
Lest I be too abstract, I’m writing about myself. I started this blog 6 months ago based on the possibility of writing for a living. This idea was pure, uncut possibility. According to the past, I had no reason to believe I would make it happen.
I love the writing part and the feedback I’m recieving. I love processing my life and helping others process theirs. But I haven’t been dealing with a couple nagging realities: I don’t love not making money or working in isolation. I’ve been trying to will these things out of my reality, but I can’t seem to do it.
Sure, it’s entirely possible I can make money if I refine my plan. I could find more ways to engage people. I actively do both these things.
But the truth is I’m not dealing with reality. I want to be better at working alone. I want to be more of a self-starter. I want to be one of these people—who seem so numerous on the internet—who through pluck and Twitter, amass great followers and fortunes. But in reality I am not these things—at least not right now.
I have to assess where I’m at, based not on the narcotic effect of possibility, but on the sober truth of reality. From there, I can create a new possibility.
The new possibility I’ve created is to continue to develop my writing, but with more human contact and steadier income. There’s an ancient tradition I am going to employ to remedy this situation. It’s called a job.
Maybe if Emily Dickinson took a similar approach, she would have left her bedroom.
It’s important to note that deviating from an original possibility is not killing it. In fact, sticking to the original plan would kill it. My new possibility affords me self-expression through writing, supported by the stability and relationship building of a job.
Here are some things to consider for yourself:
- What possibility in your life is being thwarted by reality? In other words, name a dream—one you may or may not be taking action on. Within that dream, what realities are compromising your ability to take action or enjoy acting? For example, you want to date, but don’t do so because you have trouble being open with potential partners.
- What new possibility could you create if you dealt with reality as it presently exists? Using the above example, based on your lack of skill, you could create the new possibility of being supported, getting a dating coach or asking someone who is romantically fulfilled to find out what he or she does.
- Take one action that based on this new possibility right now.