Welcome friends to Episode #83 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. One of the first things that happens, when you start on the path of figuring out what’s next is thinking about your goals. Sometimes, we’re so mired in our day to day lives that we have trouble articulating what we even want next. We have some ideas but aren’t sure if they’re real. Maybe we feel like we just don’t want to keep doing what we’re doing today, but not sure what we do want. Or, we’re waiting for someone to give us an opportunity so that we don’t have to make the decision ourselves. Either way, today we will dive into this idea of not just a goal, but an impossible (possible) goal.
I remember when I started thinking about my physical health and taking the next steps to increase my quality of life – I thought about exercising every day. Once I did that, I pretty soon realized movement wasn’t just about quantity. I could improve the quality of my exercise. As I began thinking more about that concept, there was a day when I went running with my husband. I mentioned this in my other podcast episode about starting to run again, but as we went running on the track for the first time in the 7 years we’ve been living in our town I had a thought. “What if I tried running an under 7 minute mile like I did in High School?” The next thought was, “Who would I become along the way?” The third thought was, “I should find a coach.”
Like many of you, I stopped certain workout routines when I had my first baby. So it has been over 8 years since I’ve been running consistently. I reached out to Kyle Merber, who was the one professional runner I knew to ask if he knew of a coach and he said that he’d be willing to coach me to run a mile under 7 minutes.
Thus began my impossible goal. An impossible goal is a goal that stretches you and allows you to fall in love with yourself and the process along the way. It’s a goal that might feel like you have no idea how you’d achieve it, but you’d love to see who you would become on the journey. When I began to think about that for myself and running, I saw that I would be more disciplined, more fit and I’d learn about myself and running in a way I never have before. As I thought about those things, I realized that this was compelling. It was a worthy goal.
Impossible goals should be possible and worthy. Possible in the sense that you’re not fighting against gravity, but you’re stretching yourself so it’s not too easy. I know that many of us have been burnt out so the idea of stretching ourselves can feel exhausting. If you’re there right now, take the time you need to regulate yourself and live in a place where you feel you have some space. Often, when I work with clients who have or are experiencing burnout, the impossible goal isn’t to do more, it’s to do less. It’s to be smarter and more intelligent about their choices, how they spend their time, and what results they are creating in their lives.
Impossible goals can be to get off the hamster wheel of your daily actions, habits and behaviors. To not get so angry, to be less judgemental, to accept and be more present. They don’t have to be tangible, but they do have to be noticeable. You want to be able to notice and observe what happens and that you’re changing your actions, habits and behaviors. Maybe no one notices but you at first that you’re achieving this goal. That you’re getting better at feeling less stressed, exhausted or overwhelmed from life. Is it still worthy? Absolutely. What’s the price of peace in your life? The price might be that no one cares about this goal but you. The price might be that you’re uncomfortable because you’ve never done this before in this way. The price might be that you don’t know who you are without acting the way you’ve always acted.
So we move forward into this land of uncertainty, creating certainty solely from our minds and our beliefs. From this place where we have an intention of an impossible (possible) goal that we feel is worthy of our time and energy. We are declaring that we are no longer available for accidental goals that we create not from a place of decision and intentionality, but from a place of old patterns of behavior.
A year after making that impossible possible goal of running a mile under 7 minutes, I’ve done not only that, but I’ve become more fit, disciplined and fallen in love with running and my body again. I didn’t fall in love with my body because I’ve become more fit, but because I appreciate what it can do even if I could never run another day in my life again. I connected with new people and places through running.
Last week, I ran a 5K and it was the first race I’ve run since before we had kids over 8 years ago. I placed 36 out of 564 in my age group. Within the top 10%. My intention wasn’t to be within the top 10% when I raced that 5K in NYC on that glorious fall day. It was to have fun and blow my own mind not from that one day but by running my own race during that day.
What I started realizing was that no matter how bad I am when I start doing something, I usually end up in the top 10% of whatever it is I do. There is a process to achieving our goals and setting our goals. This is why I’m so passionate about the term Spiritual Achiever ™ and why I’ve created a method around this process. It works. It’s not just about achieving for the sake of achieving but about meaningful and purposeful goals that allow ourselves to fall back in love with life.
When I saw those numbers that day, my friend Lian was by my side. We were in a coffee shop grabbing some treats and drinks for the family after the run when my coach, Kyle, texted me and asked “How did it go?!” I realized I never sent him any info and that Strava, which is like facebook for runners, hadn’t updated so I pulled up my race results from the official New York Road Runners’ website. What I focused on was my pace, which was different from what I had on my watch so I didn’t notice what Lian noticed. She said, “May! Good job! You placed 36 out of 564 in your age group!” I literally said, “That can’t be right. This must be a mistake.” I wasn’t trying to place in the top 7%. I didn’t even have that concept in my mind. I just started running again.
But what I did have in my awareness was to set myself up to succeed on my own terms. How? By getting a coach so I could expose myself to being challenged. By focusing on doing the daily work of trying to figure out when to run so I could be home in time to bring the kids to school. By negotiating workout times with my husband. By figuring out where to run, to get my body to follow my mind and the training plans, to find new places to run when I was travelling and to rest when I wasn’t feeling well or injured. So many thoughts and obstacles to conquer every day.
What immediately came to mind when I did the quick calculation and saw that I was in the top 10% was all the other times that this has happened in my life. Across all areas of my life. This is what I’m most proud of. Not that I did it here with running, but I’ve done it there and there and there and there. Not from a place of being better or superior to start, but by having an intention. An impossible possible goal that was my own no matter what area of life in which it was focused.
The next thing that came to mind was these words from Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
You might have heard this before, but I found the full quote which is much more powerful.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
I could just stop there, because it’s that powerful. “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” Your impossible possible goal isn’t some random fluke, my friends. It is excellent and “excellence” in the making. It is an art. Your life is a masterpiece and this goal is something that you can take action towards to achieve. If this is the case, why not have an impossible goal that is just possible? Why not see what happens when you think, “Wouldn’t it be fun if…?”
I have my clients set impossible goals across so many areas of their lives. Sometimes, they can be achieved within 30 days. Sometimes, they are the work of a lifetime. Always, they are worthy of pursuing no matter what.
Come back to that place of not knowing what your next goal is and set your impossible, possible goal from there and you will end up in a land of outcomes that will blow you away.
If this topic resonates with you and you want to see transformational results in your life, you’ll love coaching. Getting coached consistently is the spark that will light the fire of inspiration to make the change you’re looking to make. It is the first step in creating clarity, making a massive shift and moving obstacles out of your way so you can move forward. You can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more.
If you are interested in how to create meaningful and purposeful goals, I’m holding a workshop on 12/12. Go to www.mayempson.com/yourbestyear to sign up. We will craft a year of your best life. You will not want to miss it. I will see you there.