Impossible Goal – Part 1

Set an impossible goal.  Say what?  Everyone knows that goals are ‘supposed to be’ SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.  Why on earth would any sane person willingly set a goal they truly believe is impossible?  Isn’t that just setting yourself up for failure?  Crazy Doctor!  Perhaps. 

Each time I set a SMART goal, my brain immediately sets about proving to me why my stated SMART goal is a bad idea.  Remember, your brain was hard wired several millenia ago to the ‘Familiar/safe – Change/lethal’ default setting.  Those are its two settings – safe or lethal, there is no inbetween.  It’s like a smoke alarm.  If it is silent – all good/safe.  If it sounds off – red alert/death imminent.  But it sounds off equally efficiently when the roast chicken is over-cooked or when the house is on fire about to explode.  It does not differentiate benign from deadly.  So your brain thinks any change – be it a SMART goal or an impossible goal – is equally horrible. 

Think about your most recent New Years Resolution (assuming you even bother to make them anymore.)  Chances are your brain has already persuaded you to rethink the idea, slowly finding and presenting to you the evidence supporting why it’s a terrible idea.  If that didn’t work, it’s likely trying to persuade you to scale it back a notch or two, to delay and blunt the inevitable sting of failure.  Slowly your brain erodes your resolve and progress is minimal.  WHOOSH – safe/secure. 

Thank it for doing its job but despite its warnings, tell it, you are going to proceed anyway.  Just like you can ignore and shut off the smoke alarm when the roast chicken is over-done, you can ignore your brains change/lethal signal.

Instead, what if you picked one goal that you would absolutely love to achieve.  A goal you would pour your heart into, and give almost anything to achieve?  Voila – your impossible goal is born.  For me that is learning to play Bach Cello suite number 1.  My cello teacher just smiled silently at the idea.

By setting an impossible goal, by knowing and accepting you are going to fail, but going to go for it anyway, you will grow exponentially!  Fail for the sake of growing and learning – adopt an “I AM ALL IN” attitude.  What a great concept!

When you are utterly willing to fail – when you set an outrageous goal and go after it wholeheartedly, you achieve so much more than a withered SMART goal will ever offer up.  Even if you fail – which you should if it’s truly an impossible goal, you can anticipate a host of strategic byproducts.   Strategic byproducts are the stuff that dreams are made of… personal insights, wisdom, experience, self-knowledge – in short, loads of personal growth.  You become more of the person you need to be to get that much closer to your impossible goal. 

Learning how to fail is such a critical skill.  Yet we were taught very early in grade school failing was bad.  Failing was shameful.  Failing was something that needed to be avoided At.  All. Cost.  And if we did fail, we often deferred blame or pretended the failure held no significance for us.  We learned to not try, rather than fail.  But when we don’t try, we fail to learn and grow.

But if you are willing to fail – on purpose (as in with an impossible goal) – you will grow exponentially. 

Keep in mind that failing on purpose is different than failing by default.  Failing by default implies you didn’t really try, you gave a half-hearted effort.  When the going gets rough, you retreat or justify inaction. 

Failing on purpose, is when you wholeheartedly pursue your impossible goal.  When you fail on purpose you willingly push into your discomfort zone (where all the magic happens), you explore new strengths and new adventures and discover a new you.

Set an impossible goal.  New adventures of untold magnificence await.  Adopt an “I AM ALL IN!” attitude.  Just imagine where you might find yourself in 12 months! 

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

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