Why You Should Set Impossible Goals

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I believe that as soon as you settle for where you are, as soon as you accept stagnancy, you die. You keep moving in order to stay vibrantly alive. Whether it’s forwards, sideways or some direction you never expected, movement is necessary to life. The only way to ensure constant movement is to have some direction.

Hold on, you may say, I don’t even know what I’m eating for dinner tonight and you expect me to decide a direction for my life?

No, you don’t have to know where you’re going in life, but go somewhere. Try to do something you never thought you could. Take a leap, put yourself out there and the world will react to you. You may fail, but the possibility of succeeding at something you thought was out of your reach is worth that risk.

Impossible goals are like dreams that you actively chase.

You know the saying, “if your dreams don’t scare you then they aren’t big enough?” Well I don’t like it, and not just because it’s a cliché. The word dream has an unrealistic connotation. That this is some imaginary ideal that you will never actually achieve, so maybe you should just sit in your cubicle or dorm room trudging along on the path someone else said you should take. But setting a goal for yourself insinuates an active attempt to achieve that goal, even if it may seem outrageously impossible.

I decided last year that I would run an Ironman 70.3 race. That’s a 1.2 mile open water swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. When I started training I could barely run a mile. Six months 7 hours and 39 minutes later I crossed the finish line. Now I’m registered for two more races in Spring 2015 and plan to run a marathon next fall. If all goes well I hope to complete a full ironman by the time I turn 21. So my first impossible goal led to an even bigger impossible goal, but it gave me a huge self-confidence boost that makes these insane goals no longer seem so crazy.

You don’t expect immediate change and gratification.

Generally, impossible goals take time to achieve, something assumed by their enormity. If you don’t expect to immediately be able to run a marathon or get that promotion or ask out a cute co-worker, then you aren’t immediately disappointed. You are in it for the long con.

That being said, you can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen (see the difference between a dream and a goal above), you have to chase it. Go for a jog around the block, take a bigger leadership role in the next group project, say hi when you see that cute co-worker in the mornings. Start by making little changes and before you know it, you can look back and see just how far you’ve come and how much closer you are to your once impossible goal.

The goals give long-term direction to your life with very loose guidelines.

This long con that we’ve talked about means that you have a direction in your life, or at least one aspect of it. You know that you want to be at a certain point by a certain time — that’s direction. Because this goal is set in the future (be it two months or two years), it allows for some fallbacks, some plateaus, and some detours. But because you have a direction you want to go in, you can always get back on course when you need to.

The feeling when you actually do it.

Crossing the finish line after my race was the most amazing feeling of my life. The second best moment was at the halfway point when I realized I was actually going to do it. When you achieve something you once thought impossible, there is a confidence and joy that are immeasurable.

So send in that job application. Ask someone out for coffee. Go for a run/swim/bike. Because another clichéd line is, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Make your step count. And no matter what, keep moving. TC mark

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