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Sounds ridiculous, right? Setting an impossible goal. It’s name defies all reason and possibility. Why would anyone set an impossible goal, let alone choose to believe they could achieve it? What’s the point? Isn’t it impossible?
What is an Impossible Goal?
I first learned about this concept by listening to The Life Coach School Podcast. Inside Self Coaching Scholars, there’s an entire month dedicated to choosing and pursuing your impossible goal. All the coaches are trained in it and every session I’ve asked questions about it has given me incredible insight into what it actually takes.
An impossible goal is a goal that, when you think about having achieved it, your brain laughs at you, tells you you’re insane, and forcibly redirects your thoughts into a safer, more achievable goal. Impossible goals generate thoughts like:
- “I can’t do that,”
- “There’s no way that’ll happen,” and
- “Yeah, right.”
It’s a goal that is currently impossible for you—and we know that’s true because if it wasn’t impossible, you would’ve already done it. My coaches at The Life Coach School like to say that if you don’t feel nauseous about your impossible goal, it’s not big enough. You’ve got to up the ante.
Impossible Goals are not things like flying without wings or an airplane, or breaking the laws of physics. They’re things within the realm of possibility that you currently believe you could never do, for whatever reason your brain tells you.
Here are a few examples of “impossible goals” that people have set, where the (parentheses) is the starting point:
- Make $100K in business (currently making $20K)
- Lose 100 pounds (currently weigh 250 lbs)
- Only have one glass of wine a week (currently drinking 5 glasses a night)
Can you see how someone with those starting points might think that those goals are impossible?
My Impossible Goal for the last three quarters of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 is to match my corporate salary with income from my side business.
My brain 100% things that’s impossible, because right now, it is.
How to Choose Your Impossible Goal
Like many things in decision-making, it starts with doing a brain dump, or thought download. Let yourself write down, without editing, all the things you want to do that have seemed out of reach or impossible. Go crazy. Let yourself write things like “own a private jet” or “make a million dollars” or “go on a trip to Iceland for free.”
The point of writing it all down is to make it that much more real. Don’t stop brainstorming until you fill an entire page with ideas that you think are impossible.
Now, pick one.
And pick JUST one.
Make a decision and don’t let yourself get confused about it. Brooke Castillo says: “Any impossible goal worked at for a year will do the job of growing you.” And once you prove that you can do the impossible, and reap all the “strategic byproducts” along the way, you’ll have developed the skills you need to achieve all the other impossible goals on your list.
Here’s the thing: it’s got to be something you, if you did all the work and committed to it, could achieve in one year. Less time makes it less likely that you’ll do the work along the way to achieving it and get hung up in overwhelm and paralysis. More time means there’s a sense of “later” and then you end up never doing any work towards it.
How to Phrase Your Impossible Goal
This is actually pretty important. It can’t be vague. It can’t be action-based. Your impossible goal must be specific, measurable, and phrased based on results.
Let’s phrase those three example IGs from above into specific, measurable, and results-based sentence… And remember, you need a deadline. If you do the Impossible Goal process during December, your end date will be December 31st of the next year.
- Book $100,000 in revenue in my business.
- Weigh 150 pounds.
- Drink one glass of wine per week.
These are all phrased based on the result, not actions.
Next, decide how you will know if you’ve achieved it. What tangible thing will tell you that you’ve done the impossible? Maybe it’s your tax return. Or the revenue number in your accounting software. Maybe it’s the number on the scale, or certain measurements on your body. It has to be specific and tangible.
Another thing Brooke says is that “when you think about this goal, it should be crystal clear. When you explain it to someone, they should know exactly how they can measure it.”
My impossible goal is pretty clear-cut. In one year, the income from my side business will have matched my corporate salary.
Let Your Brain Freak Out
All right. Did you pick your goal? Did you write it out so that it’s crystal clear? Good.
Now let your brain freak the EFF out. That’s what it’s good at doing. It’s going to come up with all sorts of obstacles, all sorts of reasons why you can’t do it, why it’s impossible, why you’ll fail—let it.
Let it freak out, and while it’s freaking out, write it all down. Write down everything that comes up for you when you think about this impossible goal. Put it all on paper until you have it all out of your head. Don’t self-edit, don’t hold back. Just write.
These are all your obstacles. These are the thoughts and the objections you must overcome for YOURSELF to achieve your impossible goal.
Failure is Inevitable; Do It Anyway
This is where all the work happens. Having a clear vision of the future is one thing, but it’s impossible. (That’s why it’s an impossible goal.)
The difference between the you in the future who’s achieved that goal and the you right now who’s fantasizing about how life will be different after you’ve reached that goal is all the work in between.
How much did your future self fail to succeed at that goal? What was she willing to try, willing to fail at, and willing to keep going?
Doing the impossible requires taking massive action. Brooke Castillo defines massive action as failing and failing and failing until you get the result you wanted. It’s not failing once and deciding not to try again. And it’s not “learning” about what you need to do to succeed. It’s actually going out and doing the work.
Come up with a failure plan.
Write down the things that your future self had to do to reach the goal. You will fail at these, but you will pick yourself up and try again. These are your massive fails. When you do them, you likely won’t succeed, but that’s not the point. The point is to learn how to be uncomfortable, to learn how to fail, to learn how to evaluate, and understand what worked and what you need to do differently next time.
This is a learning process, and you can’t learn without failing.
Another piece of gold from Brooke: “When you understand that the worst that can happen is an emotion and there isn’t an emotion you aren’t willing to feel, the whole world opens up.”
Be Clear on Your Why
Remember: be clear on your why. Keep it top of mind. Why are you doing this? What are you hoping to prove, or achieve? Are you doing it because you think you SHOULD be doing it, or because you actually want the result it will provide? What is your HARD WHY?
“It keeps you going through the inevitable turmoil that will be between you and your dreams. Your why is more important to you than quitting. Your why is more important to you than easily giving up. You have to be willing to pay with your tears, your sweat, your blood to get it. You have to want it hard enough.”Brooke Castillo
When I think about my impossible goal, I chose to match my corporate salary because it will prove to myself that I am capable of doing something I never thought possible.
My intention is never to REPLACE that salary—only to match it. Perhaps, to exceed it. For many people, replacing their salary is the goal, but my impossible goal is only to prove to myself that I am not dependent on my job.
It’s a lot more fun to work for someone else when you’re there because you WANT to be, not because you HAVE to be. I’m having lots of fun now, but can you imagine how much more fun I’ll have, how much more value I’ll bring, and the change in my confidence at the end of one year pursuing this impossible goal?
What’s Your Impossible Goal?
Now, it’s your turn. Brainstorm a list of impossible things, choose one, and go all-in on it. Decide now that in one year, this is the thing you’ll have achieved no matter what.
Worried you can’t do it, or do it on your own? That’s what I’m here for. It takes more than motivation and willpower to do the impossible. It takes self discipline, grit, and accountability. That’s where I want to help. As an outside perspective, someone to help you break down your goals and make action plans, and then follow through on them, I’m with you to challenge your beliefs about what you can do and then help you do it.
To get started, sign up here for an accountability coaching consultation call.