Tuesday Thought: Why you should set impossible goals

Tuesday Thought: Why you should set impossible goals

Every year, I set a big personal goal. A goal so large that it seems impossible to reach. But then, when I succeed, the impacts of crossing that threshold brings benefits I’ll reap the other 364 days of the year. 

Entrepreneur and business leader Jesse Itzler calls this kind of endeavor a Misogi Challenge. By design, it helps us uncover what we’re capable of and tap into possibilities we don’t see now.

Over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot from this perhaps extreme form of goal setting.

Taking on my Everest (literally)

This year, I challenged myself to an endurance hiking event, set for late August. The event is to hike the equivalent height of Mount Everest over 36 hours. My initial training started lightly last November and kicked into high gear three months ago.

A few days ago, I went for one of three lengthy training hikes to help prepare for the event. As with any intentional goal setting, I identified a desired future state: the right hike in terms of distance, elevation gain, and time that aligned with my training plan. I prepared driving directions, gathered supplies and got a good night’s sleep the night before.

But the first few hours of the journey didn’t go as planned.

Our driving directions took us to the wrong side of the mountain, and we lost an hour just getting to our designated starting point. About a mile and a half into the hike, we took a wrong turn due to poor trail markings, costing us another 45 minutes as we realized we were hiking in the opposite direction. With no cell service, we couldn’t rely on GPS. And our fuel supplies didn’t suffice for the added time on the mountain. I had to stop and rest at one point because of unexpected cramping due to dehydration.

I threw my hands up and said out loud, “Let’s just go home.” After all those setbacks, maybe it just wasn’t the right day and under the right conditions to complete that training hikes.

But we stayed and finished the hike. And, as you’d expect, the trek back down the mountain was much easier and more efficient than the hike up.

A universal roadmap for big goals

These types of challenges have taught me numerous lessons over the years. This specific challenge is so large that it is equal parts terrifying and exciting. Because of it, I’ve been studying how to overcome big business or endurance challenges.

According to Itzler, setting a roadmap to accomplish big goals is the same no matter the challenge:

  • Identify and visualize what you want to accomplish and what it looks like when you get there.
  • Acknowledge the personal fear created by the goal.
  • Recognize your internal doubt over your ability to reach the goal. 
  • Define your plan to achieve the goal.
  • Do the work and execute the plan.
  • Solve the right problems when you face unforeseen gaps, setbacks, and challenges. (These problems will happen. Expect them.)
  • Demonstrate optimism and confidence in your mental resiliency.
  • Succeed.

Too often, the problem phase stops people in their tracks. They become so overwhelmed by obstacles in their path that they can’t find the energy to overcome them.

What people don’t recognize is that they’re so close to accomplishing the goal – much closer than they believe and can see. And success is likely just on the other side of that challenge if they can persevere.

My recent training hike was a perfect reminder of this principle put into action. My ultimate August hike is a big challenge. Problems, small hiccups, and setbacks will arise, and we should expect this. But we can’t ever forget that success often is closer than what we might be thinking in the moment.

So, ask yourself: “Am I setting goals that scare me? What am I doing to overcome those fears? And am I closer to succeeding than I tend to believe?