“Focus on the Impossible”
By Steve Bloom
Many people really misunderstand what it means for something to be impossible. It’s a problem that leads people to impose limitations on the actions they take in life that they shouldn’t. If you think something is impossible to do, you won’t try to do it. Ultimately, this makes you miss out on great life experiences and opportunities.
The Impossible Becoming Real
Throughout history many things people once thought were impossible turned out to be completely wrong. At one time all Europeans “knew” that swans could only be white. They considered it impossible for them to be any other color. That is, until Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer, ventured down an Australian river in 1697 and found thousands of black swans.
The Wright brothers were discouraged from experimenting with flight because it was considered impossible. Walking on the moon, running a four minute mile and the rise of personal computing were all once thought impossible too. Even gorillas were at one time considered to be only mythical until their discovery.
Of course these are all famous examples of people overcoming others’ disbelief. But what about all the times you shrug off something you want to do as being impossible? For all you know, you could be stopping yourself from doing something truly groundbreaking.
Why Focus on the Impossible
The things you think are impossible to do often aren’t impossible, simply difficult. When you label something as “impossible” to do, you give up trying to accomplish it. After all, why should you put effort into something that won’t ever happen?
The trouble with labeling something as “impossible” is often that it’s just an excuse, not reality. It’s an easy way for you to give up on something difficult or justify your own self-doubt.
Giving up on doing things simply because they are difficult is not a good way to live an extraordinary life. It’s those difficult things that make life worth living. The more things you mark as “impossible” and give up on, the more limits you’re putting on where you can take your life.
Why People Believe Some Things are Impossible
There are people who really do see something as “impossible” and believe it. To them, it’s not an excuse, but a fact. And there is a good reason they believe it: they can only believe what actual physical experience tells them and not their imagination.
Let’s say that you want to be a stand-up comedian. You watch others do it and they make it look so effortless. You work on some material for several months, practice several times in front of your friends and family and finally decide to try it out on a live audience. You’re confidence and expectations are high. In the end though, you get a lukewarm or even cold response from the audience. What happened?
Some people would conclude that they just don’t have what it takes to be a stand-up comedian. Perhaps you just don’t know what’s really funny. And since you don’t know what’s really funny, becoming a stand-up comedian is something that would be impossible for you to accomplish.
This is faulty logic for two reasons. You’d be comparing yourself to comedians who have worked on their material for years. They slowly weeded out the bad parts to their routine and introduced better, stronger jokes. It’s not something they put together in a few months.
Secondly, jumping to a conclusion early about something you’ve only attempted a few times is premature. It’s like trying to pick out Major League baseball players in a team of eight year olds. You have to give it time and a lot of attempts before you can really assess yourself.
It’s like the old phrase, “I’ll believe it, when I see it”. People only believe what they see. And if they see something as being too hard, they can misinterpret it. People can often be poor judges of their own capabilities or how things work in the real world.
Believing in the Impossible
Take a look at some of the things you’ve done in your life. If you search long and hard enough, you’ll find things you’ve done that others have blown off as impossible. Some examples include graduating from college, traveling to an exotic country, getting a good job or getting a hot date.
If you’ve done one of these, you probably don’t realize how hard it is for others to do them. Other people have discounted these things as “impossible” for them to do. You need to realize that you can fall right into the same mindset as they did.
Ignore that mindset and believe in your imagination. Be aware of the possibility that you’re putting self-imposed limitations on yourself by what you think is impossible to do. Take a chance on yourself and keep going. You’ll probably be surprised about what you’re actually capable of doing.
When it comes to thinking about the impossible, I like to use this quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
“There is no use trying, said Alice; one can’t believe impossible things. I dare say you haven’t had much practice, said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
- It was believed for a long time that if the human body traveled faster than 60 mph their flesh would be ripped from the bone, clearly that’s wrong
- It was believed that no matter where you are in the universe clocks tick at the same rate, but general relativity proved that wrong
- It was believed that men started with a set amount of sperm that could never regenerate, and those who “wasted their seed” would become lazy.
- It was believed that Aristotle knew what he was talking about when it came to science, but almost everything he said was totally wrong.
- It was believed that the earth was flat, and at the center of the solar system, until Eratosthenes determined the circumference of the earth and Copernicus figured out that the sun was the center of the solar system.
- Black holes were ‘ridiculous’ when Einstein thought of them, and go figure, they existed!
- If you went back in time to say, 1900 or before and told someone that we would go to the moon they would surely laugh and say something like “yeah right
- Look!! Up in the sky!! It’s a big metal tube with wings, and its full of people!! Once jet-liners were the ideas of madmen.
- An entire encyclopedia on a shiny little disc? “Impossible!”
All those things were once thought impossible and those who proposed them were called names, maltreated and held back.
There is a saying in science that goes something like this: “Never say that something is impossible, because you will most likely be wrong”
– Steve Bloom