Possibility is a Paradigm-Shifting Proposition

Possibility is a Paradigm-Shifting Proposition

“I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
Superior—for Doors”   ~ Emily Dickinson

Jones & Serrat: Possibility Agents

Welcome to the new office of the Possibility Agents located at 1226 ½ State St. in Santa Barbara.   It is fun to share this office with another certified coach, Ingrid Sarrat.

In my professional career as a social worker, I have been committed to being an agent of change.  As a leadership coach, I have elevated that commitment to being an agent of possibility.   For me, this is an energizing shift.  While both perspectives are about helping organizations and individuals be the best that they can be, the prospect of change is scary.  Possibility, on the other hand is exciting.

Possibility, of course, is not a new invention.  It has always been lurking in the shadows of change.  The only difference is that now I have chosen to shine a light on it, in my work as a Certified Personal and Executive Coach.

So, how do you unearth possibility out of the bedrock of change?  In the book, The Art of Possibility the Zanders describe “stepping into a universe of possibility.”   We all are immersed in the contexts of our lives.  It is hard to see beyond the boundaries created by those contexts.  As coaches we help you to visualize what lies outside those bounds.

Sometimes this process involves shifting from what is natural, acting in survival mode—to a life-creating mode.   When we make that shift, we realize that there actually is no risk, even though it feels fraught with danger.  In fact, we only stand to gain when we make that shift, because we are creating new possibilities.

One of my executive coaching clients is in the midst of a challenging organizational change.  I am helping this client to understand the culture of his organization and his place in it.  He definitely is in survival mode.  It is indeed an alarming world that he inhabits.   I have suggested to him that he is in a foxhole—dark and scary with confining boundaries.   His response to being in his metaphorical foxhole is that he is hyper vigilant and suspicious to the point of being almost paranoid.  He lacks trust and his self-confidence has been compromised by the tension in his organizational world.

Faced with a perceived slight from his boss, he was “insulted and angry”—understandably so.  We talked about it for a while and it was clear that there was little to be done about it between now and Monday when he planned to talk to his boss.  I was concerned that by the time he walked into his boss’s office, after stewing about the situation all weekend, he would more than likely be red-hot.  The chances of the conversation going well seemed unlikely.

I asked, “How else could you interpret what is going on?”  We discussed how busy his boss was and considered that his boss may have been klutzy in his effort to get a lot done in the fast pace that is the organization’s current reality, but perhaps his boss had not actually intended to insult him.   He agreed that this could be the case.

I asked, “What would it be like for you to give your boss the benefit of the doubt?”  He agreed that it felt a lot better and he acknowledged that he had nothing to lose.  In fact, he realized that he had a lot to gain:  the conversation that he planned to have on Monday had some chance of creating a better relationship between him and his boss if he took that perspective.  If he didn’t, he probably would end up having an even more difficult relationship with his boss than he has now.

In an instant, he shifted from survival mode to life-giving mode.  Suddenly the situation was fraught with possibility.

If you would like a complimentary session to discuss how coaching might help you to shift to possibility mode you can schedule a session at the website of Dr. Lynn K. Jones.

p.s. I always am interested in what you think about these discussions. Please post your thoughts on the blog…your constructive criticism and support is appreciated!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach

Your Mojo Maven


  1. Mystery novelist on June 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Familiar organization life stress point. Sometimes writing a letter that gets it off one’s chest but never gets mailed helps.

    • lynnkjones on June 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm

      Fabulous idea. It is true that “venting” can help you move on when you are stuck.

    • patricia on June 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm

      I’ve only successfully done that (but in email) a few times. Usually, I’m so impulsive that I push send. I guess that means I need to read this article again? https://lynnkjones.com/email-intelligence/

  2. Calla Gold on June 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Dr. Lynn,
    I really like your example. In the sales field I occasionally come across someone angry. I used to always feel that it was directed at me.
    Someone wise like you long ago told me that the world doesn’t revolve around me. She suggested, instead of venting about how awful that person is, picture that they have pain in their life and ask them what is happening with them. And to ask as if they hadn’t just rudely communicated to you.
    It was my mom and I was a teen. I couldn’t be the bigger person then, but I use it regularly in life now. It works very well. Even when they say it’s me, if we talk they discover that they are not mad at me, but at their husband or child or boss.
    Now me and my mom are great and I appreciate the wise counsel I got that I can now use.
    Thank you for reinforcing a wonderful life lesson, Dr. Jones.

    • lynnkjones on June 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing such a lovely example of how to create possibility when smarting from a slap of some kind, Calla. Your mother was indeed a wise person and it is wonderful that you are so appreciative of her.

  3. Jacqueline Oliveira on June 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Excellent post, Lynn. In my work as an interculturalist I find that I use the word “opportunity” a lot as clients and I navigate through real and perceived cultural challenges in the workplace. “Opportunity” and “Possibility” go hand in hand. I’ll certainly be thinking of your post a lot when I work with clients in the future! Thanks!

    • lynnkjones on June 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      Love the idea of “opportunity” and “possibility” going hand in hand as you traverse those challenging intercultural slopes. There are definitely perceptions that show up as daunting moguls and I am grateful that you are there to help your clients look at the other side of them and find the opportunities and possibilities that lie there!

  4. lynnkjones on June 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Post Script:
    When you have a paradigm-shifting experience like this you can feel it. I was pretty sure that this was the case with this client, but I was really pleased to get the email from him on Monday that “the meeting with my boss went great!”

    • Tim Welch on June 12, 2011 at 5:16 am

      Your excellent coaching work can be further enhanced by reading and applying some of what Kim Cameron, Jane Dutton and Robert Quinn (eds.) include in their book: Positive Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline. I especially like their discussion of positive deviance and virtuous processes in organizations.

      • lynnkjones on June 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

        I have that book, Tim. (You know me and books!) Thanks for reminding me about that excellent article.

  5. Christina M. Weber, MS on December 1, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    The article makes me very curious about what exactly happens in order to create a shift in belief systems related to possibilities.

  6. Executive Coach on December 2, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Very interesting question, Christina. I think it is about going from being “shut down” to “open.” It is going from a place of fear, to one of adventure. What creates the shift, I think is having someone, like a coach, challenge the belief systems that are driving the fear and causing someone to be shut down while giving them the courage to venture into unknown territory with a willingness to be open to what they find.

  7. Ellen Langer, PhD: Priestess of Possibility on July 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    […] fan of Ellen Langer.  I call her the “Priestess of Possibility.”  Since I call myself an “Agent of Possibility” that is close to being God in my book.  I revere her because she lives by never accepting […]

Leave a Comment