The Law of Possibilities

Posted on January 30th, 2013

"He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law." – Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter and sculptor, one of the most-recognized figures in twentieth-century art, best-known as the co-founder (with Georges Braque) of cubism (1881-1973)

If we stayed in the mud, clinging to our addiction, we’d never be able to rise above to see that there’s hope for us in action. What we think about ourselves matters, and it matters more than many of us ever give it credit. We may believe, for example, that we’re somehow destined for failure. No matter what we do, this line of thinking goes, we’ll never amount to much. Our parents may have drummed this into our heads from the time we could walk or we may have experienced countless failures in our lives so that we’ve come to believe that we’re worthless and cannot possibly succeed. Either way, we’ve become conditioned to failure. As long as we continue to think this way, failure is all that we will know.

Fortunately, most of us are no longer clinging to such erroneous beliefs. We’ve learned through our stay in rehab that we don’t have to perpetuate the mistakes of our past. We have a clean slate from which to move forward, fashioning our new lives in sobriety in whatever direction we choose. Of course there’s going to be work involved, and a lot of it. Things aren’t just going to flow smoothly like water in a swift-running stream. There will be boulders that crop up and block our forward momentum, causing us to change course a bit or hole up until the blockage works itself away under pressure. But with continued determination, we will make progress toward our goals. This is inevitable.

But is progress enough? We can be successful in accomplishing certain tasks, even overcoming what may previously have seemed like insurmountable challenges, without any realization of what’s really possible for us. In other words, just because we’re successful in certain goals doesn’t mean that these are the goals that we deem as our dream goals. We need something that really drives us forward, something that gets us excited and eager to take up the challenge, even in the face of formidable opposition.

What’s possible and what’s ordinary are two extraordinarily different things. The ordinary is what we do on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing wrong about taking action to do the ordinary. The ordinary is where we live on a daily basis. But it’s not where we dream. Our dreams show us a different future, a way of living or a goal that may have been all but impossible up to now. In our dreams, all things are possible. In our dreams, we find ways to navigate difficulties, overcome obstacles, create inventive solutions where none existed before.

We don’t just come by this by accident, however. It takes perseverance, dedication, determination and courage to continue to do what we need to do for our recovery in the here and now, all the while keeping an eye on the dreams that we have for ourselves in the future. The reality of life is that it is all too short. What seemed like years will one day soon be just a memory. Instead of thinking that going after some far-off possibilities entails too much time or too much work, take the long view. If we begin to work on our dream goals by taking small and reasonable steps, we’ll be making progress even as time elapses.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon current goals or shirk our recovery duties. We can do both, taking care of the present while working toward the possible. It is a learning curve that takes some getting used to, but the truth is that we do get better over time and by doing. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more we realize that there are infinite possibilities ahead for us. There is no closed end to the tunnel. In fact, our lives have no tunnel but a vast and open horizon before us. It’s all in our approach and our attitude.

Surely, those of us who’ve never had much success before may find this incredibly hard to believe. Yet we can change our outlook from one of negativity to one that’s more forgiving. We know we can change. We’ve already done it by getting clean and sober. This is a huge accomplishment and one that should make us feel better about ourselves. Yes, we have a long way to go, but that doesn’t preclude our being able to lift our sights beyond what we’ve already accomplished.

Believe that we can, for it is only by adopting such a proactive and forward-thinking attitude that we will be able to see the possibilities before us and then to go after them and achieve them.

Suppose we start out thinking that we’ll change our lives and then get bogged down by a series of misfortunes, suffering one after another setback, maybe even relapsing? All is not lost. In fact, many have stumbled and come back even stronger and more determined in recovery. We don’t all get it right the first time. Some of us need repeat lessons before we learn what we need to know. Even this is a positive step. As long as we learn from our mistakes, they aren’t failures. We aren’t failures.

So, start today to think about the possibilities in our lives. Is there an area of interest that we could explore further? Maybe we just need to broaden our horizons, to learn different things, to travel, to meet new people. Instead of saying to ourselves that nothing interests us or that we don’t feel any excitement toward anything, get busy learning something new. Be open to the possibility that we may find ourselves enjoying the learning experience. Beyond that, who knows? The possibilities are endless. Above all, keep in mind that we can do it, if we truly want to and are willing to take the action necessary.

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