Paris was gray, cold and damp. So was I. It had taken a full day, two buses, a ferry and eight hours to get there from London. When I learned I would have to negotiate the metro system and then walk three blocks just to get something to eat, I could have cried. Tired and miserable, my traveling companions and I wedged ourselves in silence between the commuters on the train. When we emerged from the tunnel, it was raining. Perfect.
We rushed under a rooftop and looked around. Every café was either wet or closed. We spied a lone crepe stand open for business. Dinner. We raced through the rain and hunched under the umbrella. With much apprehension, I asked in my very best French, “May I please have one crepe?” The vendor raised his eyebrows in confusion. He hadn’t understood a word I’d said. This was going to be a very long trip.
Since the man only sold one thing – crepes – we managed to get our point across and sat down to eat on the driest chairs we could find. I just wanted to get into bed. Begrudgingly, my friends pulled out the map and we tried to orient ourselves back toward the subway. Heads down, we shuffled our way out of the alley.
As we rounded the corner, I heard my friend gasp. She pointed and grabbed my arm.
There before us in all its glory rose Notre Dame Cathedral, pink in the light of the setting sun and framed by the sparkling Seine. Out here in the open sprawled a panorama of Paris at dusk. Pink and orange clouds were clearing to reveal a crystal blue sky. We gazed up at the majestic stone masterpiece, as glorious as it was promised to be.
Seeing Notre Dame that evening made an unforgettable impression on me. It wasn’t just because of the extraordinary architecture, the breathtaking view or the shock of standing before one of the most famous buildings in the world. It was because that moment revealed possibility. Without our knowing it, this surprise hid around the corner, just waiting to be found. That moment taught me about the wonder and magnificence that’s available to all of us, if only we’re willing to see.
Staying open to possibility is as important in day-to-day life as a vacation in Paris. In rare but pivotal moments, we realize life is so much bigger than us. Beyond our efforts lie answers, ideas and solutions we could never come up with on our own. They present themselves to us, if we let them. But most of the time we don’t. Like tired tourists, we soldier on to finish the tasks before us. Eat; subway; bed. Finish the meeting; get through the email; make it through the day. This chapter is meant to show you how to see possibility – to find new ways of looking at things, to look up and around at what’s bigger and better than what you normally see. You will discover ways to break free from narrow limitations and discover the extraordinary.
Seeing Possibility is one of the ideas I share with leaders in the book, The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership. To learn more, go to www.TheInnerEdge.com. You’ll find an overview of the book, endorsements by such thought leaders as Marshall Goldsmith and Stephen Covey, and more!
Most of the time in our lives as leaders, we are the ones asking for what we want. Now it’s time to listen. In the words of Parker Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.”