One of the most popular online programs we run each year is called "Creating the Impossible." The premise is simple -- choose a target that you figure you have a less than 25 percent chance of reaching, and then go for it, playing full out and fearless without any real sense that you "should" be able to get there. Each time I've run the program over the past six years, people surprise themselves (and often me) by getting further faster than they did in pursuit of their more "reasonable" goals and dreams.
Part of why the program works so well is that on the whole, people are terrible at predicting what can or can't be accomplished in any given time frame. While sometimes that works in reverse - i.e. some things just take longer than people think they will, maybe even years longer -- as often as not it works in our favor. Simply by setting a direction and getting into action, we begin to take advantage of some simple resources that are ever present and waiting to be called upon - resources that largely lie dormant when we talk ourselves out of starting, or out of carrying on past the first few stumbling blocks.
In order to begin to see these resources for yourself, think about the word "impossible". What does it actually mean?
Webster's dictionary defines it as follows:
Not possible; incapable of being done, of existing, etc.; unattainable in the nature of things, or by means at command;insuperably difficult under the circumstances; absurd or impracticable; not feasible.
But in my work with clients, I've come to see that "impossible" is another way of saying "I can't imagine any way this could happen." If we can imagine doing something, it seems possible to us; if we can't, it seems impossible.
That doesn't mean that just because we can imagine it we can achieve it -- otherwise every Olympic athlete would win the gold medal and there'd be no need for silver or bronze. What it does mean is that when it comes to figuring out whether or not something is possible, we're usually the least qualified person to answer the question (with our friends, critics, and family a close second).
What limits our predictive ability is our relative lack of awareness of three simple facts...
Fact number one:
The infinite creative potential of Mind
In The Inside-Out Revolution, I describe the principle of Mind like this:
There is an energy and intelligence behind life. This is ever present but is not 'in control' - it has no inherent morality or apparent point of view. It simply ensures that but for the interference of external circumstance, acorns become oak trees, cuts heal, and life begets life...
In mystical circles, this energy behind life is often referred to as the 'Ground of Being'; in physics, it's sometimes referred to as the 'quantum field'; in religion, it's God, or more specifically the Godhead...
I like to think of it as infinite creative potential - the potential for any form to arise (including thought-forms) and for any experience to be experienced.
In other words, in the world of the Mind, anything is possible. The laws of Physics need not apply; our past history is irrelevant. The more we look to Mind - what I sometimes talk about as "hanging out in the unknown"- the more likely we are to see something that we've never seen before.
In practical terms, this infinite creative potential reveals itself to us to us as new possibilities - things occur to us ("come to mind") out of the blue, and we suddenly know what to do when only moments earlier we may have felt completely hopeless and stuck.
Fact number two:
The infinite variability of thought and feeling
There is a story that shortly after his enlightenment experience, the Buddha encountered a fortune teller desirous of practicing his art on the former prince. Despite years of training, he was unable to "see" a single thing about the Buddha's future.
The baffled fortune teller asked him, "Are you a god?"
"No," the Buddha replied. "I am awake."
Part of what he was awake to was the variable nature of Thought and Consciousness - that what can seem completely real to us in one moment seems like little more than a dream in the next. This includes every single thought that we have about our capabilities and personality, and every single feeling we feel from inadequacy to indifference.
So whereas most people live out a somewhat predictable pattern of thoughts, feelings, and actions, the more we wake up to temporary nature of even the most persistent of our historical thoughts, the less inclined we are to believe them, and the less automatically we will act or not act in accordance with them. Instead, we tap into a deeper part of the mind - what some people call wisdom, or guidance.
Guidance shows up as a kind of "just in time" knowing, pointing us in a direction and gently unfolding a path in front of our feet. Because we can't see it until it's there (and it's not there until we actually need it), most people have never learned to trust it. But if you know that you'll know when you know, there's really nothing else you need to know about how you're going to get from here to there.
Fact number three:
The ever-changing nature of the world of form
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said "You can never step in the same river twice." What he was pointing to is the fact that while the world of form seems solid, it's actually in a state of continual flux. According to some research, more than half of the cells in your body weren't even there ten years ago, and that rate of change remains fairly constant even as we get older. And while some things certainly seem to change more quickly than others, the fluidity of life is one of nature's constants.
With technology and communication continuing to evolve at an almost dizzying rate, accurately projecting what's possible for any given project's reach or earnings potential has more in common with reading tea leaves than applying mathematical formulas.
What this means for us is that we can't predict what opportunities will come our way once we engage with a particular course of action, but we can predict with a high degree of certainty that new opportunities will emerge which simply can't be seen and may not even exist at the time we start working on our "impossible dream".
So how does an awareness of these three "facts of life" help us in our quest to create the impossible?
- We recognize that we don't need to see a path from here to there before we start, so we don't use how possible something looks as a decision criteria for whether or not to pursue it.
You're always welcome to join us for our next Creating the Impossible program, whenever it may be. But if you're looking for more of an immediate action plan, try this one laid out by St. Francis of Assisi nearly 900 years ago:
Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
For more by Michael Neill, click here.