Fortunately, I’d already written a section of the book to address that very question…
While you may already know exactly what you want to create, many of us are so used to only going after what we think is ‘realistic’ – generally speaking, whatever we’ve accomplished in the past plus up to 50 percent more – that when we start looking for something that seems impossible we don’t even know where to begin. The trick is that you don’t have to know before you start. The moment you declare yourself ‘in the game,’ you’ll come to realize that the game has already begun!
Here are a couple of guidelines for choosing your impossible project:
1. Choose something you don’t really believe can happen, but would love if it did
I recounted one of my favorite examples of this in You Can Have What You Want:
Rebecca, a client of mine from London, was visiting Los Angeles. She was beautiful, intelligent, and strong, but she’d spent most of her life pretending she wasn’t so she wouldn’t upset anyone.
During one of our sessions, I shared with her what I consider to be one of the golden rules of creation: ‘It’s easier to create what you really want than what you think you can get.’
Her response was to laugh in my face. ‘If that were true,’ she said, ‘I’d be going out with a sexy movie star this evening instead of back to my hotel room alone.’
Although she was joking, I could feel the energy in the room lighten up as she confessed to an authentic if unlikely desire.
Here’s what happened…
When she got back to her hotel, she decided to lie out by the pool. Suddenly, she overheard two people talking excitedly on some nearby sun-loungers. ‘Isn’t that…? Oh my God, I think it is!’
She looked up and sure enough, a sexy (in her humble opinion) movie star was walking toward the pool, looking for somewhere to sit. And there just happened to be an available lounger right next to her.
While I have no idea what happened next, she phoned me the next day sounding as though she was awakening from a wonderful dream.
‘It really happened!’ she said excitedly. ‘Just imagine what it would be like if I let myself do this with the rest of my life!’
Notice that Rebecca didn’t believe it was possible, and she certainly didn’t believe in herself. She just thought it sounded like a game worth playing, regardless of what actually did happen. She created the game through expressing an authentic desire that had previously seemed too silly/unlikely/impossible to even consider. And something shifted inside her that made the ‘impossible’ possible.
2. Know that you will probably lose – and play to win!
When I first began working with a life coach many years ago, he challenged me to create an impossible game around money. With his coaching support, I set up a 90-day game where ‘winning’ was defined as earning more than I had earned in the previous 12 months.
What was interesting to me was just how hard it was for me to even write my ‘impossible’ goal down, let alone say it out loud. It was as if setting a goal and failing to achieve it was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me.
Each time I pointed out to my coach that I didn’t think I could possibly win my self-proclaimed money game, he would just say, ‘That’s okay – if you couldn’t lose, it wouldn’t be much of a game.’
I found that thought oddly comforting, but it wasn’t until I read The Last Word on Power by Tracy Goss that I began to understand why.
Here’s how she puts it:
Leadership always includes knowledge of the possibility of failure. In [an impossible] game, that produces a remarkable degree of confidence. If you operate with an acceptance of failure, you will remain confident no matter what happens during the course of the game.
You still play ‘to win,’ of course, as without that, there would be no game at all. And there is always a scoreboard – you kept your bold promise [achieved your goal] or you didn’t. You check the scoreboard when the whistle blows … but the game never ends.
You calculate the results and debrief on how you ‘played.’ What’s important, because you said so, is that you move the possibility forward. That allows you to immerse yourself in the challenge and pleasure of your game, regardless of the impediments you encounter or the circumstances that you must include. They are all opportunities for building the muscles of making the impossible happen.
As it happens, I failed at the money game – I didn’t reach my target until halfway through the fourth month. But along the way I realized that the more I helped my clients to achieve their impossible dreams, the more my own impossible dreams began to come true.
While I don’t always look to comedians for my inspiration, this thought from Jim Carrey is worth contemplating:
‘You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.’