The Map of Possibilities

There’s a wonderful, simple map of possibilities, and it looks like this:

Diagram of magic map

I love it because it looks like our comfort zones are like islands, and the magic is offshore, in a place where perhaps we can’t see land, and we don’t know what’s next. (I may be a bit of a romantic.)

How do we do it? How do we step out of the boundaries of our little havens, off the firm island into the watery realm? First, we need a boat, or just a bit of imagination.

Imagine yourself floating quietly, absorbing each moment as it enters your consciousness and echoes deep inside you, subtly changing the shoreline of your mind. And imagine hoisting the sails and gliding through the unknown, adjusting and adapting as moments crest and fall. You can achieve whatever you are called on to do—or to be.

Next, it takes motivation, courage, perspective, and support to leave the safety of the harbor.

What Motivates You?

Motivation is the force that pulls you out of your comfort zone when you want or need something beyond the familiar boundaries of your current life.

For example, the first trip I took to Europe, I was alone and I didn’t speak Italian. My companions were a phrasebook, an independent spirit, and the absolute commitment to experiencing something new. What motivated me? I knew that underneath all the surface obstacles, would be the chance to see the world with new eyes. And by new eyes, I don’t just mean the vision of someone changed by her experiences; I also mean the way we look at the world as children, when it’s all new, and full of discoveries: eyes filled with wonder.

Ponte Vecchio

And I did just that. I walked along the Ponte Vecchio, saw the statue of David, and looked out of the paned windows of the Uffizi at the Arno as the sun lowered in the sky. I leaned on the wide stone windowsill of an old Tuscan villa and watched the misted hills rolling green and soft in the golden sunrise. It was absolutely wonderful!

Michelangelo's statue of David

What do you really want? (Not what you are “supposed” to want, what you truly want in the secret places of your soul.)

What calls to you?

Take a moment, and be with this question. Notice what comes up.

What Gives You Courage?

Many times, we know what we want, but we talk ourselves out of it, because it seems like there are too many obstacles—the first being facing our own fears of stepping outside of the known, into the possible. You call on your own courage when, despite your worst fears, you step out of your comfort zone anyway.

And remember, at the edges of fear, there’s excitement!

On another trip, I had to take a vaporetto from my Venice hotel to Marco Polo Airport for an early morning departure. It was still night when I stepped out of the hotel onto the cobbled street, and walked to the end of the calle where the black water of the canal lapped against the old stones.

Venice at night

I was alone on a dark, deserted street in Venice, in the middle of the night. I was also unsure whether the water taxi would even show up. Yet it is one of my most exquisite memories.

The sky was clear, with a nearly full moon. The white stones of a nearby building glowed in the moonlight.

It was quiet. Nothing moved but a slight breeze. No footfalls or voices echoed in the maze of stone. I felt like I was the only person awake at that moment in the city.

Eventually, a vaporetto pulled up. I was the only passenger. We sped through the Grand Canal, passing the illuminated old buildings under a moonlit sky, and I arrived at the airport in time.

Venice canal at night with moon

What if I hadn’t the courage to take that trip? All that wonder, and beauty, would exist out in the world, but not in my own experience.

What gives you courage?

When have you mustered the strength to do something that felt a little—or a lot—scary to you? What helped you to call on your natural courage when you needed it?

Celebrate that you did it. It matters.

How Can Your Perspective Help You?

Perspective is where experience and the mind meet, informed by the spirit. You can choose the perspective that the world is magical and beautiful, and you belong here. You can believe that you are meant to grow and experience and expand. You can feel that your life is deeply meaningful, and that you have a calling.

Why? Because choosing those perspectives allows you to see through the limitations of negativity, to experience the connectedness of things, the meaning of events, and the beauty of being here.

(You can choose a more dour perspective, if you wish, but all that gets you is stuckness, and the same experience, over and over. It’s up to you to choose how you want to live your life.)

For example, if you’re somewhere new and you don’t know the language, you can’t just walk into a store and ask for what you need. You have to stop and think about it, look it up in a phrasebook, speak it phonetically, and hope the sales clerk understands what you mean.

Dress in Paris shop

There’s a barrier, and to step through it, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable, feel frustrated, and even look ridiculous. (The time I pantomimed cleaning my ears with a Q-Tip in a Paris drugstore teased a small smile out of the formal, polite sales woman. Only after I did it, did I wonder if twirling your finger near your ear was an international symbol for “crazy.”)

I could have looked at that kind of barrier as a huge problem, “one more thing” that made international travel more of a chore than fun. But I never did. It was an exciting experience to me, because it was new. It required me to think on my feet, be open, and take risks. And that is the perspective that supports me when I’m trying to make my way through unfamiliar terrain.

What is your perspective on all the possibilities awaiting you?

Are you scared? Bitter? Frustrated? Helpless? Excited? How about simply being curious? How does that change anything for you?

What Support Do You Have?

The support available to us is as wide as the horizon: part ourselves, part others, part universe. I’ve found that most people want to be helpful, and surprising coincidences seem to conspire to support me, when I take responsibility for my part, step out of my comfort zone, and keep my perspective open to possibilities.

What support do you have for stepping out of the familiar and growing into the next phase of your life?

School? Family? Friends? How can you get the support you need?

And here’s the wonderful miracle of it all: when you move out of your comfort zone, you expand your comfort zone. Your inner and outer worlds grow bigger. You realize you have more room to experience your precious life, and your confidence in yourself grounds you in that expanded life. You can do it.

What do you want? How are you going to show up in your own life, in a way that you step outside of your old habits and into the embrace of the true magic of the world? And when will you do it?

You can start your journey now.

Posted in Courage, Perspective.