“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela
There have been way too many times when I’ve given up on achieving a goal because of an over-riding fear. Those fears were sometimes rational and sometimes not. They were either conjured up as an excuse, or they were instilled in me by someone else who believed in the impossible. The after thought that remains every time is regret.
A short story… When I was in my senior years at high school I had a teacher that I looked up to as a mentor. He was fit, active and healthy. He always had a smile on his face and taught us that we can achieve anything we want as long as we work damn hard and smart to get it. He announced in class one day that he swims the Midmar Mile each year, and that he had permission from the school to take a limited number of students along. I was very keen, even though I knew that I was not much of a swimmer and 1600m of open water swimming was pretty daunting at the time. I put those fears aside as I knew that I could rationalise them – I knew that all I needed to do was include 2 or 3 swims per week for the next couple of months and I would be good to go. I would go to the gym for my usual workout and then jump into the outdoor 25m pool and swim laps. Initially I had to stop at each end to get my breath back, but gradually over the weeks I built up to swimming 800m continuously. It was at this stage that I had the confidence to tell my family and friends what I intended to do. I was hit with a lot of negativity towards my ambitious goal to the extent where I began to doubt my ability. It didn’t take long for me to pull the pin. I don’t blame anyone else for my decision. But I do regret that I never got to do that event. Since then I’ve competed in over 100 triathlons (with swim distances ranging from 500m to 4km) and swimming events. I don’t regret doing any of those events. If I knew then what is possible now, there would have been absolutely no doubt that I would have toed that start line all those years ago.
Life’s lessons are only worthwhile if you can learn from the experiences.
Here’s my list of top 5 ways to make anything possible…
- Be consistent
- Fake it ’til you make it
- Do something that scares you
- Tell everyone (especially yourself)
- Progress before perfection
1. Be consistent… just like my Geography teacher used to tell us, “You can achieve anything you want, as long as you’re prepared to work hard and smart for it.” I include a wide variety of movements, activities, exercises and training into my week (swimming, running, cycling, gym, Pilates). And I’ve been doing this every week for the past 20+ years. This consistency allows me to make possible what most consider impossible (and downright mad at times!) – like that time in 2012 when me and my training mate completed an Ironman Triathlon an hour quicker than the average time of all competitors with no preparation (having been given 2 entries 2 days before the event).
2. Fake it ’til you make it… I’ve never been great nor a natural talent at any particular sport. But I have always tried my hardest. I took up the game of squash in my early years at uni. Without any technical ability, the only thing I had going was my “never say die” approach to the game. I went for every shot – even if I thought it was impossible to get to it. More often than not I was able to prove myself (and my competitor) wrong and either hit a winner or keep the ball in play. I managed to get to a fairly high competitive level based on my guts and determination.
3. Do something that scares you… There’s nothing like overcoming fears to get you out if your comfort zone and achieve great things. Feeling a little underwhelmed with my daily exercise, I decided that I needed a BIG, SCARY challenge. Over the long weekend, I scoured the internet searching for an event to give me a massive spark of enthusiasm. I found one and entered this event last night. 3 high altitude mountain runs in a 24 hour period. The distances are by no means huge, but with the air a lot thinner at altitude, running mountainous trails and backing up run after run in a short space of time, there are lots of unknown variables which some people may consider impossible to overcome.
4. Tell everyone (especially yourself)… there’s nothing like positive mantras, writing down your goals and having accountability buddies to make the impossible seem a lot more achievable. There’s been lots of studies and research in these areas with an overwhelming positive outcome to those who visualise their goals, write them down and tell other people.
5. Progress before perfection… It’s often a long road of struggle before you achieve great things. Listening to a musician master the art to perfection often makes you “wish you could do that.” Witnessing the result of thousands of hours of hard work is inspiring and motivating. However, starting off with any project from the ground level often feels like an overwhelming task that is near impossible to achieve. By sticking with it, practice by practice, chipping away at the imperfections, slowly but surely there is the possibility of mastery, success and accomplishment.
So what would you do right now if you knew what was possible?
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is right now.