Are you a possibilitarian? Do you want to be?

My first introduction to the term possibilitarian came from Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Power of Positive Thinking. The concept however was introduced much earlier in my life. In fact, I don’t remember a time when it hasn’t been a part of how my world view was influenced and developed.

My heritage is filled with stories of people that were each a possibilitarian in their own lives, inspiring each generation to follow to the same. I believe that outside of my spiritual heritage, that has been the greatest gift I have received.

What I have observed though is that we tend to mistakenly fuse positive and possible together, as if they represent the same point of view. We see it as being a half-full or half-empty perspective. And that is where I believe we begin to go astray about the true power of what it represents. Because it isn’t at all whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, it is about the possibilities you see from what is there and the opportunity for more.


Think about that for a moment. What if instead of thinking in terms of gain or loss; win or lose, we thought in terms of what was possible based on where we’re at and what we have within our reach? What could we do with just a bit of stretch? In the end nothing else will mark our lives more profoundly than our ability to do just that.

Here is the actual philosophy in Mr. Peale’s own words: “I challenge you to become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities – always see them, for they are always there.”

The root meaning of the word possible is “capable of making happen”. Can you think of anything more invigorating and inspiring than facing each day with the mindset that we are capable of making happen whatever we choose? It raises the bar for what we see as choices to a very different level, doesn’t it?

A favorite contemporary (and self-professed) possibilitarian is artist and author, Kelly Rae Roberts. In my work as a life strategist I find people that continue to forge new paths in their lives to be the most compelling as inspiration and for insight into what this concept really means. Kelly Rae is someone that has that kind of story and mission. Her art pieces share a synopsis of her own path on the back of each of them. Why? Because her story is part of her art. It’s part of the journey. What she yearned for was not what she originally chose in terms of profession. I’m fairly certain many of us can relate to that. But in the end, she did ultimately experience a full range of possibilities as she made a difference choice and craft.  In her manifesto she shares this thought: “I believe that we get to choose, that we get to craft the exact life that has been waiting for us.” 

Would you like this to be you? Here are some signs that your may not be experiencing the full power of possibility thinking:

  • Limited or guarded perspective – Do you find yourself overly cautious about what your choices might be? Do you think in terms of “this or that”?
  • Focused on Perfection over Progress – So often we full reign to the technician in us and fail to let our creative self join in the fun! Have you embraced the fact that perfection is a myth?
  • Confusion between Talent & Skill – Skill is learned and 90% of what we need comes from that. We confuse these terms. We see something as requiring talent when it really only needs desire. Talent is less specific, it can travel many places.
  • Over planning & under-preparing – This is a very telling sign. Something not going to plan? How do you respond? Are you able to pivot? Do you see loss or new opportunities?

How you have responded to these statements and questions will help you begin to see where you could bring your own possibilitarian self more fully to the forefront.

This is also a good place to remind you what possibility thinking and living is not:

  • It is not positive thinking. This is not a Pollyanna view of life. It has strong roots in realism. The reality is that there are far more possibilities than we think. Some of the most effective possibility thinking comes from crisis or even just things not going as originally planned.
  • It is not always “out of the box” thinking. If fact, in most cases, possibility thinking begins with looking at what is there now in a new way. Think innovation. Rarely does that mean doing a new thing. It is most often about doing the same thing in a new way.

So what exactly is it?

  • Possibility thinking is a mindset that does not accept limits unless they are constructive.
  • Possibility thinking is a mindset that knows there are always 1000+ other ways to get the result you need and/or want.
  • Possibility thinking is a mindset that doesn’t merely change what you do; it changes how you do it.
  • Possibility thinking can and does change who you become.
  • Possibility thinking is based on the fact that the only way to change your choices is to change your perspective.

What does it take?

Here are six steps to letting possibility thinking reign in any part of your life:

  1. Believe it’s possible (Yes – obvious but true!)
  2. Believe it’s possible for you (First stumble happens here – get rid of the excuses!)
  3. Be willing to do the work (Oh yes – it’s not magic. It still takes work.)
  4. Be willing to pay the price (Promise to price equation – Your Why Power in play.)
  5. Partner with the right people (Others can often see the possibilities before we can. Use their brain!)
  6. Play to keep playing (infinite vs. finite) and not simply to win. (The real key to it all.)

As I have been working on my soon to be released book on this very subject and have been thinking about what to share with my readers as my hope for the work. Kelly Rae’s words again spoke to me: “My hope is that my work invokes a sense of clarity and peace inside of you as you walk your own path in life; and that it inspires you to discover your own limitlessness.” So perfectly said I thought I might borrow it here. Are you ready?

Live today like you want tomorrow to be and as Emily Dickinson said: “Dwell in possibility.”

Live well.