The Limits of Possibility

I love to read, although keeping up with my list is near impossible.  My to-read wishlist now has over 335 books (which if my math is right, means even if I read one book a week for the next six years, without adding any, I still won’t be finished. Help?!).
Recently though I started the short but fascinating read, How to Be an Anti-Capitalist in the 21st Century by Erik Olin Wright.
The book is full of interesting ideas of how we can move beyond capitalism, but one line stood out to me: “In politics, the limits of possibility are always in part created by beliefs in those limits”.
What a beautiful truth, right? That – at least in part – the limits of what we are able to create or experience are only bound by what we believe to be possible.  

I think this truth extends beyond politics, to our lives, our change-work, and our collective future for humanity.

The limits of our possibility are shaped by our beliefs about our limitations.
 (read that again).
How often do we find ourselves unhappy with an element of life, but withstanding it anyway because “we have to”, “there’s no other options”, “it’s just a few weeks/months/years” etc (note: this doesn’t apply to grief, anger or other healing processes we have – which do come with the requirement to sit in the muck – but our every day life choices).
How often do we find ourselves disillusioned with our world? Instead of actively remaking it, feeling passive, stuck or angry at those in power, but who won’t change.   That this is just the way the world is.
Where might we limit our very dreams, afraid that disappointment might lurk if we dare to challenge our beliefs about what is possible?
Possible is an expansive phrase. It doesn’t ask what is realistic or actual.
It doesn’t ask what has happened before, or what is predicted to happen in the future.

it asks what is possible.
And possibilities are endless – lest our beliefs say otherwise.
It’s not just Erik Olin Wright who refuses to dwell in the boundaries of our limitations, but some of the beautiful thinkers of history.
Mahatma Ghandi said “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
Emily Dickinson, “I dwell in possibility…”.
John O’Donohue, “Where the imagination is alive, possibility is awake because imagination is the great friend of possibility. Possibilities are always more interesting than facts. We shouldn’t frown on fact, but our world is congested with them. Facts are retarded possibilities, they are possibilities that have already been actualised. But for every fact that becomes a fact, there are seven, eight, maybe five hundred possibilities hanging around in the background that didn’t make it in to the place where they could be elected and realised as the actual fact. It is very interesting to look at what you consider real and to think that it is always peopled by a background presence of unrealised possibilities.”
To shift our limitations of what is possible requires a shift in our willingness.
We must be willing to believe there’s possibilities & opportunities that we can’t currently conceive of.
We must be willing to be vulnerable, as our (mental) limitations were often put in place to protect us from risk, failure, rejection and the like. 
We must be willing to be wrong.
To not know it all.
To practice humility.
What possibilities are still waiting to be realised in your life? In our world? In our collective relationship together?

What would be different if you had infinite possibilities ahead of you?  If your belief in the limitations did not exist?

Love & power,


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