Impossible Goals in Life: What if “It” Is Possible for You?

March 16, 2021

minute READ 

When you're pursuing a life goal that seems impossible to reach, positive thinking such as this one might feel like a slap in the face: 

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Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!

Audrey Hepburn

While I appreciate the optimistic sentiment, I don't think it's entirely accurate. After all, not everything we want is possible. 

But what if "it" is possible for you? You might wonder what "it" is. Well, "it" is the thing you really want. 

Examples

It could be anything... for instance, my coaching clients have had goals as diverse as living their passion in the world, having the relationship of their dreams, owning a house, starting a business, being in great health, having a family, finally leaving their spouse, writing that book, or or or...

Perhaps your goal is on that list or perhaps not. Either way, "it" is the goal you want so much it scares you.

For many people, "it" is a goal that's so vulnerable that they don't even fully admit it to themselves. Instead of taking massive action (or even just some small steps) to accomplish it, they distract themselves with goals that are less important to them. Here's why: if people pursue their "it" goal, they might fail... and failure is not an option when it comes to something that feels this important to them. So doing nothing feels safer than risking failure.

With the dreams and life goals that are most important to us, we often doubt if we can reach them. They feel impossible for us specifically... which doesn't mean that they actually are unachieveable. Let's differentiate between these categories: 

Good impossible goals vs. bad impossible goals

Good impossible goals in life aren't actually unachievable. They just feel that way to you. For instance, you might think that you can't leave a bad relationship if you have 3 kids to feed, or find love in your 80s, or write a book.

But if you ask around or search for role models, you will find at least a few (often, many) examples of people who have done this thing. 

Bad impossible goals in life are, as far as we know, actually unachievable for humans. They are unrealistic and based on fantasy. Examples include living to 200, traveling back in time to undo a mistake you made, or survive without food or water. While these are extreme examples that I chose because they are so indisputable, you can probably think of less extreme goals that are almost as unrealistic, such as becoming a soccer player in the Champions League at the age of 60. 

The key to differentiate between these two types of goals (goals that actually are impossible and those that just feel that way to you) is to ask yourself if you think this goal could be possible for someone else and to search for examples of people who have done it.

For instance, it might sound like it would be impossible to run a marathon at age 100... but you will find examples of people who have done it, such as centenarian Fauja Singh! Why is it more possible for a healthy and fit human to run a marathon at age 100 than to play in the Champions League at age 60? Well, you can run a marathon in your own time, while the Champions League is a competitive sport where you would face younger and faster soccer players. 

I should note that many seemingly impossible goals and dreams are actually possible to reach if you are flexible with how they materialize. For instance, I once talked to a woman in her late 60s who said she wished she had four kids (she had two). Given her age, it was too late for her to have more biological or adopted children. However, I pointed out to her that she might still be able to reach her goal!

How, you might ask? Well, one of her two adult kids had gotten married which gave her a wonderful son-in-law and increased the number of her children to three! It's entirely possible that her other child might also get married which would bring the number to four.

Obviously, this is not what this woman had in mind when she said she wished she had four kids. However, that doesn't mean having two children and two children-in-law is not also worthy of celebration and that it can't give her at least some of what she wanted from her original goal (strong familial ties to four people from younger generations, a "full house" during holidays, someone who can be there for her if she ever needs them etc.). And the best part is that she didn't have to parent the last two family additions through puberty!

If your goal feels impossible, you might consider if there's a different way of thinking about it. For instance, while you probably can't become a "typical" runway model right now unless you have a very specific physique, thanks to the rise of diverse fashion models you might be able to become a paid model even if you don't look like Crissy Teigen (or whoever... I literally have no idea).

My own experience with (seemingly) impossible goals

More than a decade ago, I stumbled across a spiritual school. For many people I talked to in that school, having an awakening was an "it" goal they doubted they could accomplish in this lifetime. I didn't care too much about awakening (let's not call it lack of interest, let's call it non-attachment... lol) but wanted to live my passion and find love.

Within a short time (we're talking weeks, not months or decades), I had a spiritual awakening that was confirmed by a senior teacher of this lineage. 

Living my passion and finding love? Now that was a much, much, much longer and arduous journey for me, filled with plenty of heartaches. For a long time, I doubted I could ever have these things and felt pangs of envy towards people who seemed to have reached those goals easily.

Perhaps you can relate to the experience of reaching goals quickly that seem impossible to other people... or have the much more uncomfortable experience of struggling with goals that seem to come easily to those around you.

How to keep the faith if you're pursuing dreams that seem impossible

If you are currently experiencing the latter, I want to share something with you that helped me when I was in that painful spot. It's a quote by the 18th-century political activist and revolutionary Thomas Paine: 

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"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

This beautiful quote quelled my anger about how hard it was for me to reach my heartfelt goal. Back then, it didn't seem fair that I had to struggle so much more for the same thing than some other people.

Now I realize that we often must pay more (sweat, tears, and effort) for what's most meaningful to us. When you're in that place, it can be useful to get support from friends, coaches, or accountability partners as this can make it much easier to keep going. For instance, even though I'm a coach who successfully helps people with reaching their big goals (feel free to reach out if you want my help), I often have my own coach to support me as I'm pursuing mine. 

While I had to pay little (sweat, tears, and effort) for my awakening, the price for being with the love of my life and living my passion seemed steep as I had to leave everything behind and start from scratch. However, after 6 years of marriage and more than half a decade of doing this work, I think it was a fair exchange.

What if the same could be true for your impossible goals in life? 

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About the author

Bere is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Bere loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at www.workyoulovecoach.com.

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  • Right now – I’m ready to find an impossible goal… have been in “neutral” waiting out the pandemic and anticipating an empty nest next year. But, I know the goal will present itself to me ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks for sharing, Meredith! Sounds like it’s a great time for you to find your impossible goal. I wish you all the best with that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great post! There certainly can be value in “dreaming big” in the right scenarios. I think baseline goals and stretch goals are important. Personally, I’ve been amazed at some of the wellness goals (i.e. mileage run, workout or meditation days in a row) I’ve hit as a baseline when they may have been stretch goals just a year or two ago.

    • So true, Chris! Thanks for reminding us that we need both stretch goals and baseline goals and that the former can turn into the later with time. That’s very motivating!

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