Giving yourself an A

I’m not sure how I came upon this book, The Art of Possibility, but like most of the books that are stacked at my bedside, they usually find me at the perfect time. Written by Rosamund Stone Zander, a name you probably don’t recognize, and her husband Benjamin Zander it’s a best seller and quite a treasure.

Benjamin Zander is a conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and has also become a speaker about leadership and possibility. The book has 12 practices to help “transform professional and personal life.”

The third practice is called giving an A. Let’s back up a little, practice 2 is about the Universe of Possibility where Zander explores that we live in a “world of measurement” among systems of assessments, scales, grades and comparisons. It sets up competition and a general fear of failure and scarcity, a mindset of survival.

As a music instructor he noticed students were often paralyzed with the prospects of grades in his class. This was not the environment he wanted to create to unleash the creative energy of great musicians. Together he and Rosmund contemplated how to flip this situation. They contemplated eliminating grades altogether, but felt the student would feel cheated of the opportunity for stardom and still be focused on their place in the lineup.

They landed on the idea of giving them all the only grade that would put them at ease, not as a measurement tool, but as instrument to open them up to possibility. An A.

The students were surprised. This was out of the ordinary. There was one requirement. In the first two weeks of class they were required to write a letter dated at the end of the school year which was to say ” Dear Mr. Zander, I got my A because…” explaining, in as much detail as possible, what would have happened to them by that time in order to be in alignment with the extraordinary grade.

They were to place themselves in the future, and reflect on the milestones and insights they had attained during the year. The letters were beyond what they could ever have expected.

This idea of giving an A is a major shift in the typical way of thinking. Often I’ve prepared myself for the worst case scenario and forgotten to imagine the possibilities.

What if you began a project and imagined giving yourself your teammates an A at the start. Sometimes its easy to extend that kind of possibility to others. What if you dug a little deeper. What about giving yourself an A.

Giving yourself an A is where you stop focusing on at the hurdles and stop the talk about those, what Zander call the downward spiral talk. Giving an A means focusing on the future you’d like. This concept confirms what so many other books I have read confirm about the way the brain works.

Where your attention lies is where the energy goes. New brain connections equates to new possibilities.

I have caught myself, slipping and sliding into that downward spiral talk. It feels like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. When I get to the bottom, I feel disoriented and am not sure what to eat or drink. Whether I need to get bigger or smaller to fit through the right door.

But some times when I can catch myself, and awareness  is the key, I can make a choice. My thoughts can be automatic and take me there or I can direct them to the possibilities. This choice is about building the bridge to the place you want to go.

When it comes to a practice like yoga, at the start or every practice what if you gave yourself an A? Acknowleding where you are right now and having it be enough and more than enough. Giving gratitude for your miraculous body and all it has done for you today. Imagine a future where you feel beautiful, energetic, capable, focused and able to enjoy the abundance of your life.

Imagine any other future ahead that feels good for you.

Abide in that feeling of getting an A.

Let me know how it goes.

Be well…it’s a state of mind.

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