My parents have a palm tree in a large pot near the pool. There is another palm tree in the front garden. Both trees were planted about the same time, yet one has blossomed and grown more than 4 times the height of the other.
The reason is obvious: the palm tree in the pot cannot spread its roots to get the nutrients it needs to grow and reach its potential height. So how does this story relate to leaders?
We might be feeding our bodies the right food and water, but are we receiving the other nutrients we need to realise our true potential as leaders?
Our thoughts are very much like the roots of the trees: they either cage us in or expand our existence. If our thoughts are negative and limiting, they can shield us from our true leadership potential.
Breaking free from the prevailing mindset
Many leaders cannot see beyond the barrier that holds them to their current reality. The tree in the pot cannot see the size and greatness of the palm tree in the front garden. If it could see, it may then find a way to break free from the pot to find new soil to grow.
Impossibility thinking is a way out of a shielded reality for leaders. It is a way to break the chains that bind us to our current surroundings. It enables us to receive the ‘mind-nutrients’ we need to realise our true potential.
Our thoughts are very much like the roots of the trees: they either cage us in or expand our existence.
Fast-forward to your life 5 years from now. If you keep the same (or similar) thoughts, beliefs and actions, what are you likely to achieve as a leader? And I wonder if it is even close to what you are truly capable of? For most, the gap between potential and performance is a lot bigger than we imagine.
What does it depend on? Many think that it will depend on outside circumstances as to whether or not leaders succeed. An important key, however, is what is happening within your mind. It is not what happens to you that makes the difference – it is how your mind responds to what happens to you that determines the actions you take and the result you achieve.
So, what is impossibility thinking?
It is ‘thinking without boundaries.’ It is like the palm tree in the front garden with an unlimited supply of nutrients to grow and expand in any way it chooses. Impossibility thinking involves you ‘reframing the way you lead’. It’s like having a personal coach with you all the time telling you that you ‘can’ do it … that you can indeed achieve anything you set out to. It is like that coach knows how to shut out the sounds of others who say that it cannot be done.
How does one gain this new way of thinking?
The answer lies in changing your thinking – when feelings of doubt, frustration, despair or the like surface, immediately shift your focus. By shifting your focus, you shift the possible outcomes to be anything you wish them to be.
Viktor Frankl said in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that the Nazis in the concentration camp could do whatever they wanted to his body, but they were powerless to do anything to his mind.
He chose where his thoughts went, and therefore the true power was his. Just like Frankl, the true power we possess lies in our minds.
Walt Disney was told he was a dreamer. Paul Cove was told that the Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb would never get off the ground (pardon the pun). And Thomas Edison was told he was ‘too dull to learn’. They believed when others had doubts. They chose impossibility thinking, which can lead to extraordinary results.
Take control of your inner dialogue
It doesn’t mean that things won’t go wrong or you won’t have negative feelings as a leader. And it doesn’t mean that you should discount these feelings either. Spending too long in a negative frame of mind does little to evoke confidence, positivity and energy within your team.
Instead, leaders should pay more attention to what they are feeling and the thoughts that lead to those feelings. The focus on ‘mindfulness’ is one way in which leaders can take better control of their inner dialogue towards a more constructive and positive mindset.
Reframe your thinking. Focus on what’s possible. Reduce the amount of time you stay in a negative state and open up to new ways of doing things that are better than before. The truly great leaders do this and do it well.