In our last couple +1s, we’ve been getting our riddles on with Ellen Langer.
How about another quick pop quiz?! Two parts. Four questions.
Q1: “What’s 1 + 1?!”
A1: “It depends!”
Q2: “What are you capable of?!”
A2: “That’s unknowable!”
Q3: “Now what?”
A3: “Let’s get to work!”
Q4: “On what?!”
A4: “The small stuff!”
Today I want to go back to our Notes on Counterclockwise (and my interview with Ellen) to get a glimpse into how she thinks we should consider approaching the wonderful process of discovering our (unknowable!) potential.
Ever heard of Zeno’s Paradox?
We’ll talk about it more in a moment but she tells us to reverse it.
“Ever the optimist in the eyes of others but the realist in my own, I’ve found a simple, positive use of this thinking that I call Reverse Zeno’s Strategy. It states that there is always a step small enough from where we are to get us to where we want to be. If we take that small step, there’s always another we can take, and eventually a goal thought to be too far to reach becomes achievable.”
First, fun historical note: This Zeno isn’t our beloved Zeno who founded Stoicism. Mr. Stoic Zeno was known as Zeno of Citium. Mr. Zeno’s Paradox was known as Zeno of Elea.
(btw: Have I mentioned that Emerson’s leopard gecko is named Zeno (of Citium)? Hah. He is.)
Basic idea: Zeno of Elea said that if you cover half the distance between where you are and where you want to be, you’ll never get there.
Langer reverses that logic by telling us that there’s always (note: ALWAYS!!) a tiny little step we can take in the direction of our goals.
If we take that small step, there’s always another one we can take. Continue that process and the goal that felt so impossibly out of reach becomes possible.
For example, maybe losing 50 pounds feels impossible. But can you lose 1 ounce?
What little baby step could you take to lose that single ounce? Because if you can do that, you can lose another and another… and sooner than you may think, you’ve made the “impossible” possible.
This is tied to another Big Idea Langer comes back to often.
She tells us that we need to see our health (and various aspects of our lives) on a continuum. We’re not “healthy” or “sick.” It’s never that binary. It’s always a continuum.
And when we view it through that lens, we can bring more mindfulness to our lives and see how slight variability in our behavior can lead to significant results.
Got any targets you’d like to hit in your life for 2020?
How about one?
Let’s reverse Zeno’s Paradox.
And take a tiny step toward that awesomeness.