“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

When problems arise, don’t you often think about first is that you can’t get past them? Then follows circuitous thinking fueled by becoming so consumed and distracted by the problem or issue that thinking about anything gets fuzzy. Solutions seem distant, if even possible. You are tempted to give up, to go on to something else, to bury yourself in some mindless task or numb out with a substance or behavior of choice (cocktails, pills, marijuana or other illicit drugs, cigarettes, shopping, gambling, etc.). But guess what happens after the substance wears off or the behavior must cease (you need to sleep, eat, go to work or school and so on)? The problems are still there. You haven’t done anything to get past them. You are stuck.

How about considering alternatives to this experience of being frozen, mired in the problem, unable to get past the difficulty? There are, in fact, endless possibilities available to each one of us. All we need do is believe that they are there and allow space for them to conceptualize in our minds and come forth as a cogent and cohesive thought.

This takes some time and practice which, for many, can be a formidable undertaking. When you find yourself thinking that this is it, there are no other possibilities, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’ve been here before facing other difficult tasks and challenges and somehow managed to rise above them and find workable solutions. Believe in your own creative abilities to sort through available options and find what works. You will eventually get there.

Here is a simple scenario to show how this might play out. Suppose you find yourself in a dead-end job. You feel overworked, unappreciated and bitter about your lack of advancement. It doesn’t appear to you that you have any alternatives because you have continuing financial and family obligations: you’re responsible for paying the mortgage or rent payment, putting food on the table for the family and tending to numerous other household responsibilities that require you to have gainful employment. While you can’t do anything about your current position, you can begin preparing yourself to find something else. Just be sure to do this in your off-time. When you are at work, take care of your primary responsibilities to do your job.

Once you’ve made the decision to look for something else, a great weight will lift from your shoulders. You now have options – even though you haven’t yet found something to replace your current job. While you are conducting your search, polish your resume or create a new one if your current one is woefully out of date. Network with friends. Participate in job fairs. Enroll in training or go back for a degree. Be active in scouring job listings. Hire a recruiter. See? You have options.

Suppose, however, that the reason you can’t see a way out of your problems, can’t envision possibilities, is rooted in a dysfunctional upbringing. If you were constantly berated by your parents, bullied, teased, told you were stupid, incompetent, dull, untrustworthy, would never succeed at anything, it’s likely you currently experience low self-esteem. Coming back from this emotional deficit is difficult and time-consuming, yet it can be done. Often, however, continuing therapy from a psychotherapist or psychologist is the only way to overcome low self-esteem. A keen sense of your abilities and rebuilding self-confidence takes time and practice, along with someone who’s impartial, encouraging and supportive, and able to offer sound advice. Why do you need this? It’s particularly tough to see what you’re good at if you’ve never believed in your own strengths and talents. An objective outsider – a trained professional – can help you uncover these innate gifts, as well as guide you to discovering ways to build upon them.

These techniques will give you hope and you will be amazed at the opportunities – also known as possibilities – that you will find. To see them, however, to be able to recognize they’re there, you must acknowledge their presence. Then let the beauty of possibilities begin to unfold and make your choices according to what resonates best with you.