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Off the Couch | Finding Your Impossible

02 August 2018

When it comes to impossible, I’ve learnt that the real limit is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.

So where is that line between your mind’s end point and the real end point?

The space between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.

Ice swimming, for me, has been a tool to learn these things. I think one reason people enjoy my story as a speaker is that I’m able to show them – first hand – that more is possible despite the odds. I’m an ordinary person, speaking to ordinary people. Together we draw parallels to daily life and slowly I witness eyes start to open wider and wider.

All the little impossibles that have shaped each and every one of us, are subconsciously there to govern the way we think and act. They keep us from achieving our full potential. Once you start challenging that, you take your first step on a journey of personal discovery. Do something that you think is impossible or unlikely to succeed – just something small – and you might even achieve it. And so it begins…

“We’re all shaped and guided by ‘little impossibles’. Those things you’ve been telling yourself are not for you, are too much of a risk, things you might want to do but don’t because they’re hard, or too much effort or simply quite terrifying. I want to encourage you to think about what yours could be and then challenge them.”

How does someone identify their impossibles?

I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.

A big question to ask yourself is: Are you setting goals you know you can achieve, or ones you’re not sure you can achieve?

How do you fit this kind of thinking and planning into real life?

One of the things I strive for is a little more structure in my life, because I know it’s not impossible! So I don’t sit down and think about pushing past impossible in a structured way. It’s just a different way of thinking and a different way of looking at barriers – in business, in family, in swimming. I do think it’s important to put yourself out there with people who are doing things you admire. You align with someone and they inspire you, and all of a sudden things that seemed impossible seem more possible.

Should you focus on one at a time, or a group of impossibles?

I’m not into radical change, because I don’t want to preach something I don’t do. I think change can be really effective if it’s just little steps.

I didn’t sit down and think: what do I think is impossible? It was just one step at a time: if you can do Robben Island, what about the English Channel? And on it goes. My next challenge is that people are suggesting I write a book. It seems impossible… is it really?

Where do you get the energy from?

It’s important to surround yourself with the right people to give you energy and motivation. If I train with someone not committed and not at the same level as me, I get complacent. It’s easy to say, “I’ve done enough.” You need to be strong yourself and draw on the strength of others. Becoming friends with people who do things in a different way has been so helpful – even if it’s not my personality, it’s shown me how not to take no for an answer, or shy away from things that seem too hard to do. Teamwork, make a plan, have a goal… That’s the essential trio.