“The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.“— Sir Arthur C. Clarke, British science and science fiction writer.
If you never dare to dream the impossible dream, you’ll never know how much you can achieve. We all know this in our hearts, but many of us never apply it to our work lives. There’s a saying that goals are just dreams with deadlines; so why should you ever hesitate to set impossible goals? (<– Click to Tweet.) No matter how impossible they may seem, goals offer solid targets for you to shoot at. They also stitch together intention, planning, ability, talent, execution, process, teamwork and more into a fabric of productivity you can constantly and consistently tweak higher, through the application of more and newer goals.
Some would argue “impossible goals” represent a waste of time you could use to build other skills and otherwise push your productivity toward its upper limit. Anyway, there’s no way you can, say, write a 200-page book in three days, they may argue. But I know of a man who did just that. He completed the book by working a solid, distraction-free 10 hours per day for three days in a row, never leaving his hotel room or connecting to the Internet. He had his Wi-Fi turned off, and his meals brought via room service. It proved exhausting, and the draft he finished wasn’t a final one; but within a month of turning it over to an editor, he had a book he used to increase his sales and build his business. He’s sold thousands of copies so far.
I’m not telling you to make all your goals impossible; that would leave you a broken wreck in weeks. You have no choice but to split most tasks into reasonable chunks you can do one at a time. But pretending you’re a superhero can not only be fun, it just may allow you to find a way, once in a blue moon, to achieve the seemingly impossible, allowing a quantum leap in productivity.
Why You Should Bother
If you don’t set impossible goals, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. Every record-breaker in existence—including Roger Bannister, who ran the first sub-four-minute mile—has started out by setting an impossible goal. Here are four other reasons to set impossible goals:
1. Everything is impossible… until it isn’t. Until Roger Bannister did it, no human could run faster than 15 miles an hour for more than a few seconds. Until we developed locomotives and automobiles, the fastest a person could ever hope to travel was about 35 miles per hour, the speed of a galloping horse. Until 1969, it was impossible to send humans to the Moon and return them safely to Earth. Enough said.
2. You have a gold standard to shoot for. Benchmarks aren’t enough. Your goals should always exceed your grasp productivity-wise. Yes, sometimes good enough is good enough, but you can’t let that be your guiding principle. Always shoot for a higher mark.
3. Reaching for the impossible stretches you. Even if you never get there, trying hard on a consistent basis to reach a goal keeps you from falling into complacency; more importantly, it will keep pushing your abilities toward peak performance. They say everything is hard until it’s easy. If it gets too easy, then it’s time to start trying harder, reaching for a new impossible goal.
4. Achieving the goals, even partially, boosts your confidence. Success is at least partially psychological. Imagine the enormous rush you’ll feel if you ever reach an impossible goal you’ve set for yourself! And even if you never do, if you set mileposts along the way, you’ll experience an ego-boosting sense of release and confidence as you achieve each of those goals in turn. I had a goal of running a 5K after never having been a runner. When I instead ran a half marathon in 2:28, I felt like I could conquer the world!
The most important words in the English language may just be, “What if…?” What if you could build a billion-dollar business from scratch, starting in your garage? Bill Gates and Steve Jobs each did just that. What if we could build a constantly manned space station in Earth’s orbit? We’ve done it. What if we could build a wall thousands of miles long, to hold back barbarian hordes? The Chinese accomplished it thousands of years ago. When you’re willing to dream impossible dreams, some of those dreams will come true.
What are your impossible dreams?
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.