Setting an “Impossible” Goal

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My goal over the next eighteen days is to write a first draft of a novel.

Eighteen days to get about 150,000 words of a rough draft down on paper. That’s on top of writing articles for The Simple Dollar and all of my other life responsibilities.

I’ve had this idea in my head for a long while and I decided that the best way to do something about it is to just get down to business. I also know enough about myself to know that I work best under pressure.

Over and over again in my life, I’ve found that if I set an incredibly difficult goal for myself over a month or two, I almost always find some way to rise to that challenge.

I turned our financial disaster into something that was at least tolerable in about a month.

I turned The Simple Dollar from a vague idea into a fully-designed site that was pushing out multiple posts a day within about three weeks.

I designed, from the bottom up, a rather complex scientific data interface in about a month and a half (in my previous career), something that I was told would take a team of people at least a year to do.

Setting an “impossible” short-term or mid-term goal drives me and pushes me to achieve something more than I would have ever believed that I could.

There’s only one question, though: why doesn’t this translate to long-term goals?

Whenever I try to bite off an “impossible” long term goal, I never seem to succeed. I think there are two reasons why.

First, burnout is an issue. If you bear down on something too hard for too long, you burn out. You completely lose your motivation to continue. With a shorter-term “impossible” goal, you achieve your goal before burnout occurs.

Second, the longer the term, the more likely it is that life will simply upend your goal. I can bear down on a short term goal for a few weeks and likely avoid any crises and also avoid any major family problems. If I turn a few weeks into six months, my odds of dodging a major crisis and also avoiding family problems becomes much, much more difficult.

A shorter “impossible” goal gives you some breathing room on either end, while a longer goal does not.

This brings us back to you.

What do you think you could accomplish in the next one to three months if you really, really devoted yourself to that cause? Could you sell off the half of your possessions that you don’t really use and move into a smaller place? Could you pay off your scariest debt? Could you write the first draft of a book? Could you put the foundations in place for that great business you’ve dreamed of?

Never let the thought that it’s “impossible” stop you from trying. Sure, sometimes you’ll fail and fall flat on your face, but you’ll learn a lot from that process.

What could you accomplish before the end of the year if you really gave it your all? It might just be more than you think.

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