The Impossible Dream: a word to be careful with

November 27, 2013 in Inspiration


“Those who say it is impossible, should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

Someone I don’t really know recently asserted, in a group, that a particular aspect of what we are heavily invested in doing is impossible.

My first reaction was to laugh a bit derisively.

My secondary reaction was to be a little annoyed.

And then, I became worried that someone might actually believe ir to be true.

How sad. How limiting.

I didn’t add a comment, she wasn’t looking for input and it wasn’t my discussion, but it’s gnawed at the edges of my consciousness.

There are things that are impossible:

  • Turning back time
  • Changing the family we were born into
  • Walking across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean
  • Picnicking on the moon on Sunday afternoon
  • Becoming fluent in a foreign language in an day
  • Making gold out of straw

But then, there are the things that might be possible but we haven’t figured out yet:

  • Cold fusion
  • Interplanetary travel
  • Curing cancer
  • Clean water for everyone on the planet

Those things could be possible. Smart, creative people are working on thinking them through.

When they were young, my grandparents would have said was impossible to:

  • Get home from Bangkok in a day
  • Travel to the moon
  • Video chat
  • Move faster than sound
  • Support a family with a glorified typewriter and a souped up telegraph system
  • Run a car on electricity
  • Skydive from the edge of space

Far more is possible than we can conceive of, both in the greater sense, for all of humanity, and in the personal sense.

We need to be careful not to declare impossible those things that we simply haven’t figured out yet.

People are in the habit of using that word to describe a range of things that they:

  • Haven’t done themselves
  • Don’t know anyone who has done
  • Are unwilling to work hard enough at
  • Won’t trade other things in their life to accomplish
  • Are not currently skilled enough to manage
  • Are not educated enough in a particular vein to conceive of
  • Have not applied strategy to

Most things are possible, it’s just a question of whether or not we’re willing to make the necessary trades or sacrifices to have them.

Rather than dismissing a particular challenge as “impossible,” thus seriously limiting our potential and experience, it would be better to acknowledge the realities: 

  • “I can’t do that yet”
  • “I have no desire to…”
  • “…would be really difficult for me to accomplish”
  • “…is not something I’m interested in pursuing”
  • “…is something I’m in the process of figuring out”
  • “…is an amazing undertaking”

 “Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish”

Marcus Aurelius