Note: This post has been updated.
It was January 2016, and I was thinking about the year ahead, wondering what I wanted the new year to bring in regards to my growth. I had recently read about the idea of setting an impossible goal for that year and thought it might be a worthwhile idea to try.
An impossible goal is an objective that seems unattainable at the moment but can still be fulfilled within a year’s time. The goal has to be something that you cannot realistically accomplish at that moment, but once it is achieved at the end of the year, it will give you an immense satisfaction of accomplishment. The goal can be anything you want it to be, from running a marathon to writing a short novel.
Shoot for the Stars
Your goal can be personal or professional; it does not matter. Begin by examining the ideas that have been on your mind for a while. You know that dream you have been putting off or that to-do list item you have been meaning to tackle? That might be a good place to start.
This impossible goal will preferably be something that deeply inspires you and will take your life in a new direction. It should be an objective that wasn’t already predictable based on the actions you are already currently taking. For goals that you have already started, consider those goals in action. Think bigger, and brainstorm a goal that requires greater energy and broader planning.
You may ask: If this is something I have wanted to do for a while, why will it be different this time? For me, simply calling it “impossible” somehow inspired me more because it was just that: a moonshot. By definition, it was crazy and out of reach, and nobody would blame me for not achieving it fully.
Although the word “impossible” was the main difference, two other factors aided my inspiration: I selected a goal so inspiring that it served to push me when I was not feeling powerful, and I created a clear and concise plan.
How to Achieve It
We can all agree that an impossible objective will not be achieved on its own; it is important to formulate a plan that will work. Here are some of the steps to follow to achieve optimal results:
State the goal with clear ideas and metrics: Make your goal as specific as possible. By the end, you should have a well-defined result that will clearly tell you that you have achieved the objective. For example, my impossible goal in 2016 was to read 50 (varying-length) books in one year. If I only read 30 books, it was obvious that I had failed. Incorporating numbers or values is an easy and practical way to keep a record of your progress.
Work backward: In this step, you can take the entire goal and break it down into achievements by quarter or semester. From there, you can make it even more detailed by forming goals on a weekly or biweekly basis, depending on the final objective. In my case, it was simple: I took the 52 weeks in a year and estimated I would read a book a week. The extra two weeks would provide a cushion if I was sick, away, or behind.
Create a method to measure progress: Measurement is the backbone of achievement. Once each of the smaller tasks has been defined, create a tool for yourself to measure how your goal is progressing and how much work has yet to be completed. For my book project, I created a list by quarter, where I would count each book I read per quarter as well as for the year. There were times when I was ahead and others when I simply couldn’t finish a book on time. The count helped me stay on track.
Allow room for mistakes and setbacks: Remember: this is an impossible goal. It will not be easy, and things will not flow as smoothly as one would probably like. Leaving space in your plan for problems or speedbumps will make it more likely to be successful.
Find support: For 2017, my impossible goal was launching this blog. Throughout the year, I kept moving forward yet was moving very slowly. Finally, I joined a group of fellow entrepreneurs to workshop my blog, and they gave me a deadline to publish my first post. Their help was the final push I needed, and I successfully (and proudly!) met the deadline. Without their help, I would not have accomplished my impossible goal.
Use It as a Motor for Growth
My two annual impossible goals have helped me fulfill some of my biggest dreams, and I hope they can help you do the same. Once the process is set in motion and when the goal has been achieved, it is much easier to keep these new endeavors alive and as part of your personal or professional repertoire. Launching this blog was not just a one-off event; I plan on continuing into the following year and beyond. The habit can stay with you forever.
The goal should be hard; that is the whole point. So even if you do not achieve it the first time around, you will have accomplished much more than you would have otherwise. From there, you can take that already completed work and use it to attack the objective the following year.
What is my impossible goal for this year? I have not quite decided, so maybe you can help me choose, as I am torn between three:
Launching this blog in Spanish to focus on Latin America;
Writing a children’s book;
Obtaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing.
I promise I will consider all feedback, and let you know how it goes!
Update from January 31st, 2018
I selected my impossible goal for 2018: write a children’s book. The other two options were also wonderful, and they tempted me at different times. I chose this goal, however, because writing a children’s book seems completely unattainable; it is something I never dreamed I would be able to do. At the same time, what inspires me the most is writing a book, which I can then read to my daughters at night, while they are still little. I am already making plans and will let you know how it all turns out.