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Guest Post: The Power of the Impossible

I’m a big fan of goal setting. I make to-do lists, I write everything I want to do in day planners and log it in my phone, and I’m obsessed with following b
Oct 22, 2016 | Kate McDonald Walker

I’m a big fan of goal setting. I make to-do lists, I write everything I want to do in day planners and log it in my phone, and I’m obsessed with following bullet journal tags on Instagram. (I wish my gel pen skills could match up to these organizational artists.) Fellow team members here at Joyous HQ can attest to how adamant I am about logging and then checking off everything we do in our project management software. In all fairness, we use Asana for project management, and when you complete a project, rainbow-spewing unicorns and narwhals may randomly streak across your screen, and who wouldn't want that?

Most of my goals are pretty short-term and easy to achieve, given the structure of my day-to-day life (take more photos, journal every day, take yoga classes twice a week, finally finish reading Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, etc.), but I always like to have one really big, long-term goal on my radar, and here’s why:

Studies show that the level of challenge is directly linked to how likely we are to achieve, or even exceed that goal. It may sound backward at first, but think about it for a moment: I’m way more likely to procrastinate on putting effort into something I feel is easy, or won’t take too long to do (I can always do it later, right?) than a goal where I know if I don’t keep putting in regular effort, it’ll never get done.

Case in point: last week, I ran a half marathon. When I started, I thought it was going to kill me. When I finished, I was convinced it had turned me into a superhero.

I’ve never been a runner. In fact, I’m traditionally an avoider of all forms of cardio. A couple of years ago, I downloaded one of those couch-to-5K apps on my phone, went all the way through the training program, ran a 5K race, and then promptly forgot about it as soon as it got cold. Back then, 5K was my idea of an impossible running goal.

Then I got whacked with a severe depression last year. (I talked about it a little on the blog here.) I have so many different tools I use to help preserve my mental health and then, as now, I’m happy to try anything at least once and add it to my arsenal of tools if I feel it works. So when I started seeing articles about how running can help with depression, I figured “why not?” and got out my couch-to-5K app and my sneakers.

It worked. I’m sure a lot of the credit can also go to therapy, medication and a whole host of other things I was doing, but the cardio combined with the feeling that I was accomplishing something challenging was definitely a big help. So when I finished the couch to 5K challenge, and my app asked me if I’d like to download a 5K to half-marathon training app, I figured I’d give it a go. I needed a new challenge, and it might as well be a big one!

So I kept running. When I first started, the idea of running for over two hours straight seemed impossible to me, but I tried a little more each day. One day, I suddenly realized I could run over 15K, and suddenly the 21K I needed to run a half-marathon didn’t seem so out of reach.

So here it is: photographic proof of my “impossible” half-marathon, complete with my super-flattering and fashionable CamelBak and headphones, and some guy named Larry totally crashing my photographic victory party! :P

The best thing about impossible goals is that once you’ve accomplished one, nothing’s impossible anymore. Following through on a really challenging goal really does turn you in to your own personal superhero. The impossible is addictive! I'm actually seriously considering tackling a triathalon next!

Here are my top three tips for achieving the impossible:

  • Focus on what you want to do, not on what you "should" do. These goals are about your dreams, not about what your mom, or your best friend, or your doctor thinks would be good for you. You're going to be willing to work harder for something you want than for something that someone else wants for you, no matter how well-intentioned.
  • Don't be afraid to dream big! Like I mentioned above, you'll work harder toward a challenging goal, and get a bigger thrill out of accomplishing it, so go crazy and aim for the stars!
  • Share your milestones. I got so much encouragement from runner friends when I told them about my goal. Every like on an Instagram photo or encouraging text helped me that extra little bit through the tough stuff. Don't have any friends who are into your particular goal? Find an online community that is! (Trust me, there's an online support community for everything out there somewhere.) You'll find that even friends who aren't necessarily into your particular thing will be happy to cheer you on, because who doesn't like to see friends achieve goals?

What "impossible" goal do you want to check off your bucket list? Share it with me in the comments below!

Oct 22, 2016 BY Kate McDonald Walker
Vanessa   •   October 27, 2016

Great post, Kate. It's brave of you to speak up about your struggles. What a great story of overcoming a stubborn depression and transforming the way we can think about goal setting. Thanks for sharing. xo Vanessa


Nat   •   October 27, 2016

WOW! I've been really avoiding any posts/essays/anything that had to do with "You can achieve your goals!" for a while because I find them un-relatable. But for some reason this sparked my interest and I am glad I took the 3 min to read it through. Thanks for sharing the true essence of your journey and your why's. I GET IT. (Maybe I'll re-load that Couch to 5K app...) cheers!


Alex Hope   •   October 31, 2016

The feeling of breaking through barriers is wonderful, it's one of those things in life that once you do it enough, it starts to become a part of who you really are, and that can only be a good thing!


Vee   •   November 1, 2016

I like the post. I started running recently to keep active and be in a good shape. I have struggled with depression and some other mental issues. Your post is a good inspiration. Thank you for that. I'm gonna check the couch-to-5k app. I'm on about 3km and half marathon seems rather impossible now. But I can see the improvement since I've started few weeks ago. I'm lucky to have support from a good friend who made a great progress in jogging over last couple years. Good luck to all the runners out there:)

Heather Allen   •   November 2, 2016

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