Possibility Thinking: A Required Catalyst to Achieve Breakthrough

Achieving breakthrough requires possibility thinking. Possibility thinking is when we open our perspective to entertain new possibilities that have previously been beyond our worldview, expectation, experience, or comprehension. The challenge is that most people’s minds don’t think in this way without conscious intention. If we are not conscious of our mindset, our minds have the unconscious tendency to engage in probability thinking that limits our perspective. This keeps new possibilities from ever emerging. 

Probability thinking goes like this: Whenever we start to conceive a vision that is a significant stretch, as a vision should be, our ego automatically and unconsciously runs a background check, an analysis about whether achieving the vision is probable or likely. Call this a reality check. The problem is that the ego makes this analysis based on what we have achieved in the past - what was possible then. It is a rear-view or looking-back perspective that lowers the bar on what is possible now. When we are going for breakthrough results, the whole idea is to raise the bar; to expand the conception of what is possible.   

Dis-engage Probability Thinking and Open Your Mind to What Is Possible 

A primary function of our ego is to keep us safe, operating in the comfort zone of what is known and predictable. To expand our conception about what is possible, we must quiet our egos, and temporarily dis-engage its safety-seeking risk analysis. 

The challenge is that from the ego‘s perspective and rationalization, analyzing the probability of success is a smart thing to do! As we begin to conceive big visions, our ego often screams that we are venturing into la-la land, stepping outside of reality into fantasies that aren‘t achievable. But when creating a compelling business vision, that is exactly what we should do be doing. Whether creating a new vision for our organization, team, or selves, or identifying the breakthroughs required to achieve those visions, our current and past realities and capabilities should not limit our thinking. 

The ego‘s reality testing tendency is, of course, both well intended and wise, just not during visioning. Imagine if Thomas Edison, Nelson Mandela, or President John F. Kennedy had listened to their egos when they announced and pursued their visions of electricity, freedom, and walking the moon. For those of us who wish to be visionary leaders and make a significant difference in the world, our first personal breakthrough is within us. We must be mindful and step beyond our ego‘s limiting perspective. We must open our minds to new possibilities and operate from our higher self - from our Being - where new possibilities get befriended. 

Don’t worry, we don’t have to suspend our probability thinking indefinitely. Instead we are simply delaying it until after we have conceived new possibilities, created our vision, and identified the breakthroughs required to achieve it.  

When to Use Probability Thinking Effectively 

Knowing when to put the probability “hat” back on is the key. That should occur as we are conceiving our transformational strategy, and not before.   

When we pursue breakthrough results, we first create our big vision. Then, we identify the breakthroughs required to achieve our vision. At Being First, we, minimally, address with our clients the breakthroughs that are needed in business results, organization, culture, and leadership and workforce performance. Once those breakthroughs are identified, we then ask, “What is the transformation strategy that will deliver those breakthroughs”? 

Once we have identified the breakthroughs needed and created a strategy, we step back and look at the needed breakthroughs as an integrated whole, still with our possibility thinking lenses on. We look for relationships among the breakthroughs, inter-dependencies, and cause and effect relationships. Often, what occurs are tremendous insights into how we can achieve the breakthroughs that never would have occurred without possibility thinking and a holistic, integrative worldview. 

Once we have completed this creative thinking, we can then be more pragmatic in our analysis. We can, and should, now engage the ego‘s skill in probability testing. We must test our transformation strategies against the realities of our circumstances. We should look at the pacing and sequencing of events and determine if we have adequate resources, change leadership skills, time, and capacity. 

As we address the pragmatics of our transformation strategy and its level of probable success, we may find we need to alter our vision because it just doesn‘t seem possible. That is ok, as these alterations will be minor adjustments to a big vision that never would have been entertained without our conscious intention to quiet our ego and see from a higher perspective. 

If you are interested in transformational leadership, knowing when to employ possibility thinking and when to employ probability thinking is key. Good luck with it. Create something grand!




About the author

Dr. Dean Anderson

Dr. Dean Anderson is an international speaker, bestselling author, and strategic advisor to the C-Suite. For forty years, Dr. Anderson has been guiding visionary leaders of America’s Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and global non-profit organizations to transform themselves and their organizations to Achieve Breakthrough in business results, culture, leadership, and executive team performance. Dean is the co-founder of Being First, one of America’s most innovative transformational consulting firms, and a co-creator of Conscious Change Leadership, an advanced Body of Work that integrates personal and organizational transformation. Dean received an honorary doctoral degree from Brandman University for this pioneering work. Dean co-authored two cutting edge books that have become classics in the field of organizational transformation: Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results through Conscious Change Leadership, and The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization’s Transformation. He and his co-author, Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson, have published over 50 articles on human performance and organizational change, and are the co-developers of The Change Leader’s Roadmap Methodology.