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Leadership Thought #406 – Be Open To Possibilities

October 1, 2012

Free Photo of People's Open Hands Stock Photo

Never stop being open to possibilities.

A strange thing happens to us as we age.  We become more risk-averse and less open to the learning and growth possibilities abundant in life. We become set in our ways and habits.  Our worldview becomes fixed. We are less willing to challenge our own perspectives and very judgmental of others who disagree with what we think.  We tend to look back not forwards on social issues.  The past is sentimentalized while the future is rife with doubt and uncertainty.  We are skeptical that the younger generation has what it takes to solve the problems that ironically enough our own generation created.  We become closed rather than open to possibility.

It may sound cliché, but our life IS what we make of it.  If we limit our options, our results will be equally limiting.  Change is a fact.  Nothing ever stays the same, even the people who populate our universe.  Are you the same person you were 5 years ago?  David Whyte, my favorite living poet, has a saying that “we learn the most about ourselves when we are between things.”   Life has a way of forcing these transitions whether we like it or not.   You resist the lessons to your own peril.

A common body language signal of being closed or defensive to what you are hearing is crossing your arms across your chest and leaning backward.  I see this all the time in meetings and one on one interactions.  A person in resistance mode either disagrees with what they are hearing and/ or that you have touched a nerve that makes them uncomfortable.  However, personal development is rarely pain-free. Intellectual maturity means challenging your own conceits.  I repeatedly tell my clients they need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  When you experience a visceral reaction to something, it is the universe giving you a hint to pay attention.  Moreover, crossing your arms tightly across your chest and leaning back for an extended period is an uncomfortable position and makes other people feel less safe with you anyway.

I much prefer the body language equivalent of opening your arms wide before a hug.  At that moment you are allowing yourself to be vulnerable to another human being and open to the same response from them.  You realize that contact with another person is important and his or her existence in this world has made your own experience a better one that is worth celebrating.   In a larger sense, I would encourage you to start each day with your arms and eyes wide open to the possibility the world has to offer you.  Sure, it might be a bit scary and uncomfortable at first to step outside your preconceived idea of a comfort zone but that is exactly the point.  The world will hug back in many ways, shapes, and forms.

Most people slowly box themselves in over time and limit their possibilities until they even begin to embrace and justify the constraints.  I cannot promise you that life will always work out the way you want it to if you become more vulnerable and less close-minded, but I will guarantee that your options for success and happiness will increase.  You will also attract more people to your professional and social circle who lift you up rather than hold you back.  Stay vital and fight the natural tendency to close yourself off and the world WILL respond in kind.

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