Options vs. Possibilities

It's easy to see the options in front of us. Valuable leaders can see beyond what's available into yet-unseen possibilities.

Nine Dots Puzzle

You are given a paper in the middle of which you see nine dots in total, arranged in small 3x3 grid. You have the instruction "Join all nine dots with four straight lines, without taking pen from paper." Go ahead, try it.

nine dots

(see solution)

The vast majority of us can't figure it out. We try over and over, but our minds don't see a method to this far out request given the options before us. If you add the instruction "feel free to use the whole sheet of paper", new possibilities emerge. You begin to draw lines outside the grid formed by the the dots. You have seen new possibility.

The Now and The Future

The problem is that the future is hard to see. We know what we know. We have options based on things we understand. We have heuristics from past experiences that tell us the value of current options.

Because someone has a vision of the future they can lead us to it. Their vision is but a catalyst. Often visions are directional, giving us an idea of where we want to go, but not spelling it out exactly. They're still hazy. We imagine big leaps will be required to get to this very different future.

Many will question exasperatingly how in the world we get there! The questioning is good because we need concrete steps made in order to make the whole transition. Questions that lead to possibility of answers are best. This adds to and clarifies the vision instead of stopping at what simply looks like an unacceptable cost to pay or an insurmountable barrier to break through.


A vision that is powerful will describe possibilities that inspire us to want to make a leap. We want to find a way to it. Once we are in motion, we are on our way to a new reality, made possible.

When JFK said we should go to the moon (and those "other things", lol), surely many a soil-knowing, earth-loving citizen naysayed with a "how could we ever??" But there were enough inspired to tip the balance, share the vision, and do something about it in order to create the new reality.

Are there leaders in your life that have seen great possibility in you that you couldn't see in the options you saw in yourself? What effect did that have on you?