“Stepping Into A Universe of Possibility”

“It is theory which decides what we can observe.”

~ Albert Einstein, 1926, in discussion with his pal and ours, Werner Heisenberg, king of uncertainty not to mention quantum mechanics.

Wait — not vice versa???!

Aren’t science AND rational life decisions based on objectively seeing “facts” and then using those facts to form a testable hypothesis on which to base your next move? Yes. And I am frankly IN LOVE with the scientific method.


As Einstein pointed out, our assumptions determine what we see.

Fun example of a subcategory of this phenom – watch this video showing a basketball-passing-game between white-shirted and black-shirted players.  Keep count of how many times the white-shirted players pass the ball. The result may surprise you.

In her blog post last week, Kayce Hughlett guided us deeper into the idea that “It’s All Invented” (Chapter 1 in Rosamund and Ben Zander’s The Art of Possibility)  by helping us to see some of our own personally constructed “theories”/ stories/frameworks and to play with alternatives that may be AS true or even truer. (Click here if you want to do that short and powerful practice.)

This week, I’m exploring the Zanders’ theory that there are two general kinds of frameworks that shape our daily human lives. (If you’re following along in your own copy of the book, you’ll find we’re in Chapter 2, “Stepping into a Universe of Possibility.”) The Zanders place our most mundane survival thinking in what they call “The World of Measurement,” and they believe our sacred thriving moments occur when we put ourselves in “A Universe of Possibility.” These two frameworks shape us in subtle and deep ways:

Ways in Which Our Lives Reflect Our Frameworks

How our frameworks manifest:

“The World of Measurement”

“A Universe of Possibility”

Underlying assumption: what we see when we look around Lack and Attack:Limited resources (time, love, money, power, inner strength) + threats from all quarters. Good and Plenty:An abundance of everything + friendlies all over the place!
What life’s about Surviving. Thriving.
Our “task” (the “dramatic action” of our stories) with respect to others and our surroundings Competitive:Overcome obstacles and prevail;Be acknowledged and included. Generative:Giving;Integrating.
How we get to know others and our environment. Compare and Despair: We develop knowledge by measuring (assessments, scales, standards, grades) against others. Imagine and Invent: We develop knowledge through invention. (E.g., “We decide that the essence of a child is joy, and joy she is.”)
How we talk; the conversations we have with others. “We chronicle personal trials and triumphs.” In this way, we evaluate our successes and measure them further. “We speak with the awareness that language creates categories of meaning that open up new worlds to explore.” In this way, we share and nourish our unfettered imaginations.
Individual sense We stand back, identifying self as separate from others. “We forget ourselves and seem to become part of all being.”
How we see ourselves with respect to others
  • On a ladder of hierarchy – each person either above or below each other person.
  • Divided by lines into different types.
  • In connection.
  • Yielding to the power of contexts.
  • Highlighting relationships between people and environment, not the people or things themselves.
How we go about life We set measurable goals and strive for “success,” hoping to arrive at a better place than where we are by overcoming obstacles. “We set the context and let life unfold.” There is nothing to fix – and everything to create.
Useful strategies we’ve developed
  • “Alertness to danger, a clever strategic mind, an eye for assessing foes, a knack for judging strength and weakness, the know-how to take possession of resources, a measure of mistrust, and a good dollop of fear.”
  • “Keeping our armor intact… which means resisting any challenge to our personal viewpoint.”
  • Looking at life as “a minefield…  deal[ing] with reality as though it is fixed, as though people, ideas, and situations can be fully known and measured.”
  • Looking for new connections, ideas, meanings…
  •  A posture of openness — maybe even seeking out ways to expand our thoughts and experiences.
  • Looking at life as “variety, pattern, and shimmering movement, inviting us in every moment to engage.”
How we can tell we have succeeded Measurements of winning vs. losing and acceptance vs. rejection. [But I think we feel this in our bodies as physical sensations of being shackled – no matter whether we win or lose.] Sense of ever-expanding possibility and emotions listed below. [I think we feel this in our bodies as physical sensations of freedom.]
Emotions “Love for our own… fear, anger, and despair at losing… exhilaration of having come out on top.” Emotions often associated with spirituality: “joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion, and compassion.”

So did you perchance notice that my elegant little spreadsheet, comparing and contrasting the two frameworks, lies firmly in the World of Measurement?!

Don’t Panic!

We all are part of the world of measurement. We have to be. It comes with be human — with having our glorious conscious, rational brain imbedded in this material world. Our human combo of mind + body means we are unavoidably aware of “differences” between things, times, places, people.

And that’s a good thing.

Differences are required for anything to happen. For movement. For new things. And seeing/acknowledging those differences is not only necessary for safety (which is why we evolved with this ability!) but also the only way to have imagination and to invent new things.

Yes, our imaginings can spin us away into obsessing on limitations, but it also can jettison us into seeing new possibilities… AND ways to make those new things happen.

Sometimes the strategies from The World of Measurement are the very tools that allow us to begin accessing A Universe of Possibility – like how the Zanders’ book and my table summarizing the different frameworks help me.

So don’t beat yourself up for your activity in the world of measurement. But be sure you ALSO can assume your rightful place in a universe of possibility — as often as you want.


The rest of the Zanders’ book presents practices for “sailing into a vast universe of possibility” – we hope you’ll continue to join our book-club-blog-hop as we explore those ideas. But first, it helps just to notice how you are in The World of Measurement, how you are in A Universe of Possibility, and how you most easily shift between the two.

Consider This:

  1. In my table, which of the “ways” in the first column is how you most commonly manifest The World of Measurement?
  2. In which “way” do you most easily find yourself in A Universe of Possibility? Is this a potential practice you could use as a tool for shifting to A Universe of Possibility when you find yourself suffering in The World of Measurement – or does one of the other “ways” seem more likely to help you make the shift?
  3. Which aspect of A Universe of Possibility most appeals to you – gives you a little thrill just to consider? (This may or may not be the same as the answers to #2)

I am asking my three fellow coaching-book-club-blog-hoppers to write their responses to these questions in the comment section below – and I hope you’ll chime in because I find it really is true that as we share our forays into meaning, we open up multiverses for one another.

Thank you for playing – for wading into Possibility with us.

PS — To see the book club schedule, click here.

This entry was posted in On the Same Page: "The Art of Possibility" by Rosamund and Ben Zander. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to “Stepping Into A Universe of Possibility”

  1. Betsy says:

    My own answers to “Consider This”: 1. Keeping an eye out for danger — I’m definitely good at the whole vigilance thing – and in armoring myself. It really hit home that this can lead me to resisting challenges to my personal stories. 2. Looking for connections is definitely the most common place for me in A Universe of Possibilities — seems likely it MAY be the easiest way for me to shift over when I’m stuck . 3. What grabs me most is seeing life as “variety, pattern, and shimmering movement, inviting us in every moment to engage.” Ahhhhh.

  2. amysteindler says:

    1. I’m definitely firmly ridiculously entrenched in the scarcity mindset I grew up with. It leads me to overwork, overeat, and overcompensate with what I put into friendships. 2. When I’m fully inhabiting the world of possibilities, I go about creating things (including my days) and feel confident that I don’t need to fix or change anything. I can continue to simply EXPERIENCE what’s happening for me on a moment-by-moment basis. 3. The ideas of abundance, and of thriving, feel the most delicious–like a long soak in a hot spring on a snowy day, or an early wake-up on a Saturday morning–full of possibility and devoid of any feelings that I “should” be doing something other than what I find myself engaged in.

  3. Betsy says:

    Lovely, Amy. More and more, I feel like CREATING something — anything — is the secret. Thank you for your open, brave sharing (I’d say, from my perspective, this is one of your strongest “Universe of Possibility” traits too!). XXX
    PS — ummm.. is that hot spring’s location shareable?!

  4. Hey Betsy – Wow! You’ve put a lot of work into this and I find myself comparing last week’s lesson that I hosted and wondering “Did I do enough?” etc. which could easily fall into “Compare and despair,” but I’m choosing not to go that route today and instead celebrate the brilliance of every participant in On the Same Page!! As I think about how I most commonly operate I would say it’s by chronicling my successes and trials. I think this falls solidly into my role as a writer and storyteller as I look at where I’ve been and see how my story has developed from those places of woe and wow!

    I am definitely a believer (and lover) in the world of possibility and really do embrace them all. It’s like having a wonderful toolbox full of new toys. Whenever I’m not interested in playing with one, another is always right at hand. Believe me this has taken years of PRACTICE, but once I learned that “it’s all invented” like we discussed in Chapter One, I discovered how much more fun it is to live in possiblity rather than constant measurement… ‘cuz someone is always changing the measuring stick so we might as well make up something that makes the world sing!

    Which leads to abundant variety, patterns and shimmering life in every moment!! How cool is that? For example, I am sitting in the middle of an airport right now with my fabulous 20 year old daughter – she was my best pal as a child and then disappeared for the teen years. If I’d succumbed to measurement and declared myself a horrid mom (based on her less than lovely hormonal outbursts), my hunch is we would have a very different relationship and wouldn’t be gleefully winging off on a wonderful adventure. Possibility is the most amazing universe!! I hope our readers will open up to it! Thx for leading this week!! xoxo

  5. amysteindler says:

    Betsy–just thinking of a recent trip to Steamboat Springs–they’ve got hot springs in the middle of their downtown and out at a place called “Strawberry Hot Springs.” But I suppose even a hot bath will do in a pinch!

  6. Kanesha says:

    Oh my goodness. I’m a bit tardy to the party because I really had to think, get clear, and not mask one thing.

    My late 20s and 30s were filled with scarcity thoughts even though I was highly successful in everything I was involving myself in. I was raised in a household of abundant thinking – thinking that you could do and be everything you wanted. The outside world painted a very different picture in very provocative and evocative colors – and I went with that…a.k.a. falling into mental quicksand.

    Then one day I just stopped measuring up. I rewrote my own rules and started grading myself differently. What a fabulous, scary, and “why didn’t I do this sooner” moment. I still have those moments daily.

    I see saying NO to things that don’t FEEL good as an opening up to more possibility.

    I see saying YES to the things that FEEL scary and thrilling to be the best time of my life…and right now that includes raising my kids with NO scheduled after-school activities. Yes – that’s what we are trying out this semester and we all LOVE it. Honestly, I think I’m the one who is loving it the most.

    This “breaking away” from the scarcity thinking that my kids won’t measure up if they aren’t overscheduled – really is about me. It’s also about helping my kids stay open to the possibilities that draw them in (whenever these possibilities decide to show up) and me having abundant faith in who I am as a mother – and how the Universe will guide my kiddos to whatever their next possibility is. (Lawd – longest sentence evah!)

    *big breath*

    I do question this – but I’m sticking with the open and abundant thinking.

  7. Betsy says:

    Never too late, Nesh! Especially for our founder:)

    I love everything you write here. Wow. And, yes I particularly the particulars (they mesh with my own views), BUT even if I DIDN’T, it wouldn’t matter. That’s the whole thing, I think with A Universe of Possibility. Everyone can be different. HAS to be!

    BUT — as far as the specifics… I do love your attitude. Those kids only need your love and presence. They soak up that loving family thing you got going. ANd as far as their “success” at such a young age… it is not all (or even very much) up to us. They are there own little selves. Amen.

  8. Betsy says:

    PS — Lucky, lucky, LUCY kids!!!! You know, that’s how most of the really cool adults I know grew up. School. And home. That was it back in the day:)

  9. Betsy says:

    Hey book-club-blog-hopping-sisters and friends… what do you think of this:
    I am so intrigued — she is like the ultimate in wordlessness it seems. She empties her mind so inspiration comes. And then just tries not to interfere via “ideas.” Tries to get the inspiration down as it came to her.
    So…. ideas are the enemy of inspiration? How are they even different? Images (“spirit”) vs words (“mind”)? I don’t know — I am an “intellectual,” I guess, so it’s scary to me. At the same time, it’s so appealing. I have watched this 3 times. I am obsessed with it somehow. THOUGHTS???

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