Revising Your Life

A local author offers a guide to creating new narratives and focusing on the big picture.


Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander

Published by Viking, 272 pages, $26

Following up on The Art of Possibility, the 2000 bestseller she co-authored, Cambridge therapist and executive coach Rosamund Stone Zander opens wide skies of optimism and perspective once again. In a spirit combining therapy and Thoreau, she invites us to expand constricting “child stories”—long-held narratives about our lives centered on hurt, anger and victimhood—into more flexible adult stories. That includes seeing oneself not as a solo “doer” but as part of a larger system. For Dr. Willie Smits, subject of one of the book’s many anecdotes, that system encompassed the natural world. Working in Borneo with sick orangutans, he led a massive reforestation project in a rainforest devastated by carbon dioxide emissions, helping not only threatened animals, but local people who needed work. “I just followed nature,” Smits said of his enormously successful enterprise, which brought back wildlife, agriculture, jobs and, eventually, rain. In this case, the broadest vision was needed, and imitating nature’s instructive patterns made everyone a winner.

In another episode, the author looks at how her frequent collaborator, conductor Ben Zander, helped Jessica, a blind singer standing stiffly in rehearsal, by dancing exuberantly with her, illustrating in space and spirit her greater physical and vocal capacity. Other stories have workshop participants making subtle shifts that release frozen attitudes toward themselves and others, showing how a small change in viewpoint can bring on a big transformation.

From Page 110: Let’s posit that there is a spirit in every group or society that is a match for, and resonates with, the self, unbounded and open, that we are able to invent, or perhaps discover, behind our individual walking stories. I imagine a powerful, contributory spirit that is waiting to be recognized, called upon, and set in motion. If we clear ourselves of patterns that block us, listen carefully and speak on key, we may be able to be catalysts for its emergence, like the finger on the glass. The direction of growth in which things want to move may open up for us.

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