When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, stated by Sherlock Holmes
What does that mean?
To me, this is all about logic. If you start with everything you can think of, and then eliminate those that are impossible, you are well on your way to a solution.
That’s the first stage of solving any mystery, whether it’s a murder mystery in a book (or TV, or movie, or…) or something you expected to work, but didn’t. You have to eliminate all the things that it couldn’t possibly be, or you will have too many distractions.
Once we clear out all the distractions, we can focus on what remains. Sometimes what is left is easy to believe, other times it can seem highly improbable. However, with the impossible eliminated, what remains are the only possible solutions. And one of them must be the truth.
Why is clearing out the impossible solutions important?
Sometimes, it can be hard to solve a challenging situation even under the best of circumstances. A problem with lots of shiny things to look at can be distracting, and waste a great deal of our time.
While some impossibilities might be obvious, sometimes we can be sucked in by an idea that intrigues us, despite being impossible. Other times, it is only in close examination that the impossibility is revealed.
However, once we clear the clutter by removing all that is impossible, we are left with an easier solution. Gone are the impossibilities, both obvious and subtle. What is left can be gone over more quickly, and evaluated for probability or even likelihood.
This may be an iterative process, starting with the really obvious impossibilities, and then moving to the shiny distractions. Finally, as we work our way through the last of the options, we may still find ourselves weeding out additional impossibilities.
Where can I apply this in my life?
When trying to answer “why?” how often do we find ourselves distracted by answers that end up being impossible? While an occasional flight of fancy can be refreshing and fun, it can also eat up a lot of time.
I don’t know about you, but for me, time is one of the things I can least afford to waste. Besides, there’s a certain elation in solving things quickly, right?
How often do you attempt something, but it doesn’t come out quite the way you wanted? If it isn’t happening to you at least some of the time, you may be working too far inside your comfort zone, right?
When things don’t go the way you expected, it’s time to figure out what went wrong, why it did what it did, and how to do it better next time. That starts with eliminating all the impossibilities, and narrowing down the remaining possibilities, in an effort to hunt down the truth.
Think about something that didn’t go well for you. Grab some paper and write it down. Now ask yourself “Why?” and write those answers down as well. Start digging and brainstorm up all the ideas of which you can think, and add them to the list.
Now look at your list. What answers can you eliminate as impossible? Alien intervention? Solar flares? Ok, so those might be a bit obvious for most cases, what other possibilities can you eliminate from the realm of possibility? Look at your list and discard immediately anything that is impossible.
What is left after the first cut? Take a look at what is left and consider how you want to divide the remainder. Split them into two groups, three, five, whatever suits you. Divide the remaining ideas into the groups based on relative probability, and begin with the least likely.
Look for situations that could eliminate this as a possibility, and cross it off as soon as you find one. Personally, I move fairly quickly on the first pass, and only dig deeply as I go into subsequent iterations. The objective is to shorten the list as quickly as possible.
Once I have the list down to a few high probability ideas, I chose one and dig until I’m certain I have a valid answer, or I prove it impossible. Depending on how thorough I need to be, I may run through the whole list and get all the possible reasons (sometimes there are many paths to a disappointing result). Other times, just one will be sufficient.
How do you figure out what to do after something goes in an unexpected and unpleasant direction? Ask yourself “Why?” and then start eliminating the impossible.
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” It’s simply elementary, my dear reader. 😉
From: Twitter, @White_Roses10
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/arthurcona139299.html
Photo by ell brown
Happy Birthday to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, born 22 May, 1859.