A mentor of mine (my field guide) had these words hanging on his office wall for years. The sign sparked productive debate and conversation with his team time and time again. I think about that sign and its sentiment often as I work through the daily challenges of my life, both at work and at home. My inner dialogue goes something like this: “Yep, I get it. It’s totally not doable. But, let’s pretend I have to. Now what do I do?”
What happens when you force yourself to make a plan for something you were convinced was an impossibility?
IT OPENS YOU UP TO OPPORTUNITIES
By simply exploring what you would do without constraints, it frees you up to see possibilities. What if seemingly insurmountable obstacles are really opportunities in disguise?
YOU LOOK AT THE PROBLEM DIFFERENTLY
The rigor of thinking through what you would do—even if you have no intention of actually doing anything—will shed new light on the challenge, which for me is an illuminating experience every time. What is blocking you from doing your best work?
YOU SEE YOUR OPTIONS
If you’re rooted in “no way” thinking, you don’t take the time to ponder your options. The regular practice of thinking through the what-ifs will help you see the full picture.
Here’s a framework for mapping your way through [insert IMPOSSIBLE THING here]:
- “No way. It can’t be done. Never ever in a million years.” Ask yourself, “Why?”
- “They won’t go for it.” So, go talk to them.
- “There’s not enough time.” Carve out time. Ask for an extension.
- “There’s no budget.” Reallocate. Ask for more.
- “I don’t want to.” Delegate or change your attitude. Push reset.
- “I don’t know how.” Find talent. Ask the experts. Hire out.
- “There’s no one to help me.” Sell your idea. If it’s good, chances are, you’ll get support.
After you’ve mapped out how you’d tackle the undoable, ask yourself two questions: Is that thing really as impossible as you originally thought? And if not, what’s next? Most of the time, you’ll stick with your original plan of action, but you’re sure to learn more about yourself and the situation you’re facing by looking for ways through the impossible.