The following is an idea that I “stole like an artist” from The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander and highly recommend the read.
This world we live in, this one right here and now, is a world of measurement.
Everything is measured, managed, benchmarked, compared, and stripped down to a piece of data that can be tracked and analyzed.
Measurement is important. It allows for continuous improvement.
But measuring has limitations. It can only be done to that which is finite, concrete, or tangible.
A company can measure how much of its product it sold. They can compare that to their competitor.
If they sold more, this company can claim a larger piece of the market share pie.
But, this world of measurement, more often than not, leads to a zero-sum or finite game. There is only so much of the pie to go around. The more someone else gets, the less someone else gets.
Further, measurement cannot stand on its own. For it to have meaning it requires comparison. How is something tracking compared to something else – a past measurement, a competitor, etc.
Because it’s everywhere, we can’t help but let this world of measurement influence our thinking to our own detriment. We view the world as a zero-sum game, a world of scarcity – of time, money, resources, power – where our job is to get the biggest piece of the pie. We compare ourselves to everyone around us and find that we don’t stack up or if we do, we feel like an imposter.
The world of measurement can lead to a downward spiral – a race to get more than everyone else.
But there is another world.
THE UNIVERSE OF POSSIBILITY
This world extends beyond the borders that define the world of measurement and includes all worlds: infinite, generative and abundant. This world requires a posture of openness and an unrestricted imagination for what is possible.
Action in this universe is defined as generative or giving – creating new ideas, consciously ascribing meaning, contributing, and yielding to the power of context. Emotions, often associated with spirituality, are abundant here – joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion.
Many experience this world in the presence of natural beauty or at the sight of something of infinite magnitude – a breathtaking view, an ocean that goes on forever.
Overall, success is more likely if you participate joyfully with projects and goals and don’t fear as if your life depends on achieving a mark.
Resources are likely to come with greater abundance when you are generous, inclusive and engage people in your passion for life. It’s not guaranteed – success never is – but when you orient yourself towards abundance, you care less about being in control and you tend to take more risks.
The world of measurement requires you to set a goal and strive for it. The universe of possibility requires you set the conditions and let the journey unfold.
GIVING YOURSELF AN A
Grades are another example of the the world of measurement – it is a way to compare students. From an early age, grades teach us that success is a measurement of comparison against others.
And as we move into adult life, grades may disappear but we carry with us the idea that we must habitually compare ourselves to others.
But what if there’s another way…
Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.Michelangelo
Rather than comparing ourselves to others, what if instead we focused on chipping away at whatever is keeping us from making our highest level of contribution – from developing skills, mastery or self-expression.
This practice is known as giving yourself an A.
This practice allows you to speak openly about your own thoughts, feelings and aspirations. It allows you to support others to be all they dream of being without the need to compare.
An A can be given to anyone you may encounter.
Doing so allows you to speak from a place of respect. It allows space for others to realize themselves rather than measuring how they stack up against another.
The A becomes a possibility to live into, rather than an expectation to fulfill.
The practice of giving an A recognizes the inherent desire in people to contribute to others, no matter how many barriers there may be.
You can choose to validate the apathy of a boss, a friend, or co-worker or you can choose to honor in them an unfulfilled need to make a difference.
When you freely grant an A to yourself and others, it cuts across the ladder of success/failure in the world of measurement, to the world of possibility. It is a framework that allows you to both see and be all you are, without having to resist or deny any part of yourself.