How a False Sense of Impossibility Can Hurt Your Career

A false sense of the impossible limits you and keeps you from reaching your true potential.

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A career worth having is seldom a just-add-water option. And sometimes that means being confronted with goals that, at first blush, seem impossible. But if there’s one thing I have learned over the years of helping people move out of feeling frustrated and stuck in their work into careers they love, it’s that often, the impossible isn’t really impossible.

How many times have you heard the story of the person who succeeded in turning his or her dreams into reality despite hearing from people that it's impossible? It's the standard stuff of entrepreneurial success stories. They reached their goals because they didn't buy into a false sense of the impossible.

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That false sense of the impossible is one of the biggest obstacles I encounter. It's the voice of doubt, and that voice is in the habit of making up its own version of reality. It’s compelling, but it’s not real.

Have you ever looked at something you'd really love to do and thought, “I can't do that because....?” Whatever the reason you came up with, you could probably replace it with, “I can't do that because...that's absurd.” Because to that voice of doubt, following your dreams is absurd.

Why? Because pursuing a dream is inherently about jumping off the treadmill and blazing headlong into the Land Beyond the Rut. That's unknown territory, and to that voice, the unknown equals danger! And so the safest thing is to make it “impossible” and put a stop to all that nonsense. Of course, sometimes it really is impossible, but often it's simply a convenient reality that we've created in our minds.

A false sense of the impossible limits you and keeps you from reaching your true potential. It creates fake boundaries around who you can be and what you can achieve.

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I’m not saying, “anything is possible–just do it!” Some things truly are impossible. And some things are possible, but they would require choices and sacrifices that you might not be prepared to make. But a good chunk of the things you think are impossible just might be possible with some creative problem solving.

Next time you catch yourself saying, “I can't do that because,” stop for a minute and ask yourself if that might just be a false sense of the impossible. Check your assumptions. Any time you hear yourself saying “that’s impossible,” make it standard procedure to get a second opinion. Stop and ask yourself, “Is that really true?” Embrace the absurd, just for a moment, and ask yourself, “So how could I? What are some possible ways to make it happen?” Challenge yourself to come up with five alternative ways to make it happen.

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Make it a habit to exercise your possibility exploration muscle. The potential of second guessing your impossibility assessments is huge. Think about it. Even if we take a conservative estimate and say that 75 percent of the things you think are impossible really are impossible, you have still gained 25 percent more potential and possibility in your career. What difference do you think that could make?

Question impossibility. Not a bad motto to live by.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.

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