How to Accomplish Impossible Goals

Do you have a goal that feels impossible? Something you want to get started but aren’t sure it’s achievable? Or maybe it is really daunting and you’re having trouble following through?

Whether it is a big, lofty goal, or something smaller, we all could use some help finding ways to stay motivated and put in the work to make those goals reality. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to tell you a personal story that I think explains the over-arching idea of “constant work” (which can be easier than it sounds) and then share one trick that has really helped me.

For me, the big, impossible goal has been having good balance. If I’m going to be honest, I would like to be able to walk across slacklines with calmness and ease, but simply standing on one foot for more than a few seconds or doing a single-leg squat would be a HUGE achievement for me. You see, when I was 7 I was diagnosed with a benign brain-tumour. The tumour was right at the part where my spine attaches to my brain – the part that controls things like motor function.

In the hospital room, after the tumor was successfully removed and I was out of a wheelchair, Doctors would watch me try to walk in a straight line across the room. I couldn’t do it. I would wobble and fall off course. It was upsetting and embarrassing. When I was out of the hospital I would practice this by walking on the edges of curbs or along the lines painted on the roads. I still do this and think about how I felt in that hospital so many years ago.

People told me, “you will always have poor balance,” or, “you’ve always been uncoordinated.” I’ve never believed that just because I’ve been one thing for most of my life doesn’t mean I can’t change. After the tumor  I couldn’t throw a baseball to a target. Then, in my 20s  I could. Despite being slow and uncoordinated, I ran cross-country in elementary school, played basketball and skateboarded. Later I played rugby in high school. Slowly things started getting better, but my balance was always terrible and still kind of is. I still will loose my balance while standing still or going down stairs. But slowly that is changing.

I’ve increased my focus on improving my balance. I now try to balance on one foot when brushing my teeth and grinding coffee. I’m slacklining and doing yoga as well. And last week I made an amazing leap forward. Standing in the kitchen, I stood on one foot and began to grind coffee without teetering. I smiled and said, “I’ve never been able to do this before…in my entire life.” I’m also able to do single-leg squats, or pistols – another thing that I’ve been working on for about 3 years.

My point is, if you keep working at something you will improve. It may be slow and the results may seem almost unnoticeable, but tiny achievements add up.

The GM for the British Cycling Team Dave Brailsford calls this the “aggregation of marginal gains.” The concept it simple, if you make a 1% improvement everyday the results will improve exponentially. He used this technique to bring Great Britain’s first Tour de France win in 2012.   James Clear, a studier and writer on “habits”, has made this great graph that highlights what just 1% a day can do:

 

In applying this thinking to my everyday life I’ve learned to stay focused and trust that the work will pay-off. Before I may have been frustrated that I wasn’t really seeing results after a week, month, or year of work. (Maybe you can relate?) Now, I tell myself, “Put in the 1%… Every. Day. Put in the 1%.” And I’m seeing it work in ways people told me were impossible.


What goals are you working on? Do you have any tips for making the impossible possible? Let us know below. Get article of motivation, workout tips, and exciting videos in your inbox every Monday – subscribe to our newsletter!

We’re meeting at Sherbourne and Bloor for our next Discover Your Wild adventure (July 22)! See you there!


COLD: how Cory Richards’ story about being cold motivated me to climb mountains

Short films can be powerful little beasts, transporting you to another reality for one second to, well, 19 minutes in this case. Back in March, this story came up in conversation while we were interviewing Erin Mccutcheon about her winter camping experience on Lake Winnipeg.   Erin, in passing, said, “Oh, I recommend this documentary short called Cold. It’s about climbers getting caught in an avalanche. It’s… I have no words to describe it.” Our eyes widened at the thought.

Doing my due diligence and driven by curiosity, I sought out the film and watched the trailer. It’s been over two months, and I’ve only brought myself to watch the film now.

As I sat down with the 19 minute piece I thought, “Why has it taken me so long to watch this?” As soon as I clicked play, I knew.

“Beautiful. Spectacular. Free…” narrates Cory Richards at 21, 959 feet and -46°C. Cory is one of three subjects in the short and also the cinematographer. “But it’s just so cold,” he says. “What the fuck am I doing here?”

My eyes welled.

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Cold is about the resilience, drive, and circumstance of three climbers – Cory, Simone Moro, and Denis Urubko – who attempt and succeed at climbing one of Pakistan’s 8000 meter peaks in winter. They were the first team to make it. Only 16 expeditions have attempted in the last 26 years, and these men were the first to make it.

If The Peakbaggers didn’t exist and I didn’t think about them constantly, I don’t know if my eye would have welled. I mean, I’m sure they would have but for a completely different reason. Think about being there, I thought. Because we will be. We won’t be on that mountain, no, but we’ll be on mountains and in the cold and asking ourselves what the heck we’re doing here just the same. Watching the extraordinary feat of fellow climbers, full of fear and questions of mortality and doubt, I was both inspired and astounded at once.

Will I be able to do this?

“Go gently,” Cory repeats; advice from his father before he left. The power that words have, the small moments that mean the world to you as you look at it from thousands of meters in the air… I will enjoy my coffee and my cats and that lipstick I bought last week, I thought. I will enjoy my runs through city parks and the birds I hear outside my windows. I pictured myself missing these things. Did I ever miss them… and I’m amid them.

Cold is a brilliant storytelling of experiencing some of the most difficult, testing emotions we are capable of experiencing. And all by choice. Why do we make these choices? Because we’re driven and inspired and astounded by this beautiful earth… and we want to be a part of that.

“What the fuck am I doing here?”

The answer is yes.

The most resonating part of Cold for me, as I learn more about the world, the earth, the climate, the change, the air, is when Cory sees the sun after being in darkness for days. “When the first rays hit me – graced me – not yet with warmth, but with light,” he says, “I know now that I am alive again, and a part of this world.”

How distant and disconnected you can feel from home when you are so far away from it at night in a tent as the snow and frost settle on your sleeping bag. Ishpatina in March was only around -20°C. In Cold, the temperature reaches -46°C. We’re in for a treat; nothing short of an incredibly beautiful, spectacular adventure.

cold_film_cory_richards_2

Watch the trailer for COLD here:

COLD – TRAILER from Forge Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

For a detailed account of the team’s climb, Outside Magazine published an article called “Partly Crazy With a Chance of Frostbit” available here.


Do you have a story about being COLD? Let us know in the comments below!

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How I’m Dealing With My Fear of Going Outside

I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. The windows are open, the sun is streaming in, I can hear the city traffic go by and the birds chirping. I know it is a beautiful day out. “I could go for a run,” I think. “Or I could sit here, where it is safe.” I choose the latter and feel guilty until the sun goes down and it is dark.

This is the first time I’m admitting this fear… to myself and to everyone else. I don’t know when these feelings started creeping up in my life and I don’t know why. What I do know is that almost every time I think of going outside, a wave of anxiety hits me. Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is large. I hesitate and think of a variety of reasons not to go outside.

You don’t know what’s out there.”

It’s too much effort.”

It’s safer in here.”

Agoraphobia is defined as “an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness” (Wikipedia). Maybe this is what I have. I’m not sure. Everyone feels anxious at certain points in their life. If you recognize that your anxiety has become more severe or has begun to impede certain actions, then it is time to speak with a doctor.

A lot of people I talk to speak about a fear of trying something new or “starting out.” It may be going to a new gym, starting a new activity, going to a new place… Because they are new, all of these possible actions bring up a variety of uncertainties. Seth Godin often talks about The Lizzard Brain or  The Resistance – the cause of most irrational human behaviour and compromise. Seth says that “the resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.” I take comfort in knowing that everyone has some form of fear to deal with; that I’m not the only one. The people who are out running races, climbing mountains, and embarking on new adventures all have their own fears too.

But how do they deal with theirs and how do I learn from them so I can deal with mine?

Steven-Pressfield-The-Peakbaggers

In her TED Talk, Karen Thompson Walker suggests I think about what my fear means to me. She says, “Our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next?” This actually sounds terrifying. I mean, isn’t thinking about the all possibilities exactly the idea that is weighing me down? But it may actually be my avoidance of these fears that prevents me from breaking them down. Many sports psychologists suggest athletes embrace fear and use it as a way to fuel their adrenaline. In the book Great By Choice, Jim Collins suggests using fears to develop a plan for “what if?”

Based on this, other readings, and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a plan for embracing and confronting my fear of going outside:

  • Acknowledge my feelings without judgement. I use the mediation app Headspace to help me do this.
  • Break it down in to steps and focus on the first step. So, if I’m going running, I focus on putting on my running clothes and nothing else.
  • Put on a great, pump-up playlist… like this one.
  • Follow some blogs filled with motivational photos, like Vega’s #BestLifeProject – I suggest you pick a number, like 5 motivation photos, and then get moving right after.
  • Join a community of like-minded individuals. Matt recently wrote about joining a running crew.
  • Focus on something you love. Tara Sophia Mohr states that love and fear cannot coexist.
  • Work through the fear like a story, as Karen Thompson suggests.

Wow, I already feel better admitting this fear to myself and to you. Hopefully this posts helps motivate you in some way. I know it has motivated me. I also know that if my fears and anxiety become to overwhelming, I’ll reach out to a mental-health professional. If that is your case, help is out there. Here is a good list of helplines worldwide.


Let me know how you’re dealing with fear, watch Karen Thompson Walker’s TED Talk and Seth Godin’s speech about the Lizzard Brain below, then make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.