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Off The Couch | Some Things are Impossible

17 July 2018

Let’s be real. You won’t hear me, as an inspirational speaker, saying the words: “everything is possible”. It’s not. Humans have limitations: full stop. But there’s a powerful difference between the message I convey to audiences (and live by) versus the more commonly preached “everything is possible”.

Let me briefly explain. We are all governed by our own mental limitations.  Our minds are designed to keep us safe! Safe from physical harm and from doing dangerous things – and this is good. But our mind is also designed to keep us safe from the emotional pain that comes from failure. Our minds set us a default safety boundary and we therefore naturally believe in our own limitations. When you believe in your own limitations, you don’t have any reason or inclination to challenge them. And this is where we as humans begin to underachieve. Often we are none the wiser. It’s our inherent tendency (and a lot easier) to simply not try! Now (admittedly through some stupidity on my part and often via accidental situations I’ve gotten myself into around the world), 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 am hugely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.

Challenging your mind

Your mind is an extremely strong power tool that is an inseparable part of who you are, so the concept of challenging what your mind tells you is a difficult thing to do. It doesn’t come naturally and is still hard for me to do after I’ve lived this and speak about it all the time. The only reason I am better positioned to talk about it, is that through some of my cold water challenges, I’ve reached the point of ‘impossible’ many times. Yet somehow, I’ve pushed past what I truly believed was impossible at the time, and gone on to achieve significant things beyond. Thereby gaining a first hand peep into what lies on the other side of my own mental limitations, and setting my journey in motion.

After these challenges, I sit back and take a look at what went on, and realise I managed to push past what my mind convinced me was not possible for me to achieve. Again, I’m realistic. I know there is a limit to my abilities. For example, there were only two possible outcomes for my challenge in Antarctica (1 mile in -1°C water temp). Either:

  1. My body was going to warm Antarctica’s waters up to reach my core temperature; or
  2. Antarctica’s icy water was going to cool me down to its temperature, in which case I’d be very dead (undesirable).

So the realist in me knows it’s impossible to stay in there forever. But what I also know is that it is indeed possible to stay in that deadly temperature way beyond what my mind was telling me would be possible, and therefore what I initially believed. It did everything to get me out, to keep me safe, to convince me that I had only seconds left. It’s a very convincing ‘voice’. And that is its very important job.  But it is over cautious.

So start asking yourself the question. How often are you convinced that the challenge you have is simply impossible to achieve? I’m talking about all challenges you face: work and career, health, family issues, fitness, sport, etc. How often in your day to day lives do you, even subconsciously, simply not try? Bet you it’s more often than you initially think while reading this.