My son wasn’t making this distinction. I took out the chess board, 8 brown pawns and 1 cream pawn. I placed them out of his sight.
Me: reach in; grab one pawn - what’s the most PROBABLE outcome?
E: well, it could be the cream one.
Me: it’s possible; but it’s not probable.
E: *takes out brown pawn*
Me: now what is most LIKELY the next one?
E: it could be the cream one.
Me: it could be; but it probably won’t be.
We continued the exercise until it was evident to him the very dramatic difference between possibility and probability. Then we got into defined probabilistic assessment (i.e. - 50/50; 1:3; 75%; etc.). Throughout the week, he continued to make observations about probability versus possibility as we drove around town, or as we looked for items in the house, or as he pondered the events to come on a following day.
As I watched him build this understanding, it started to dawn on me that many adults don’t understand the stark difference between the two. I read it and hear it in people’s word choice all the time:
- So-and-so WILL NEVER change
- I CAN’T do X
- that group of people ALWAYS...
We like to be logically lazy. When something is improbable, we just round down to IMPOSSIBLE. When we want something to be true, no matter how unlikely, though possible, we round up to DEFINITELY. It leaves people in a gambling mentality or a prejudicial mindset.
More importantly, failing to make this distinction leaves you without the answer of HOW TO change something. It obligates you to certain outcomes.
If something is DIFFICULT, but you approach it as IMPOSSIBLE, there’s a good chance you can no longer effect change.
Problem solving IS the targeted reduction of improbability.
So, when you run into something very improbable, try thinking, “how can I reduce the improbability?” rather than “I give up; this system is impossible; these people are impossible.”
It may leave you with a few more tools in your kit to deal with your health and fitness. It may leave you with a few more tools in your kit to deal with people who have a different worldview.