George Wald, Harvard University biochemist and Nobel Laureate, 1954
Not long ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post. It was called Do Something Impossible, and the main point was the idea that we don’t need more urging to seize the day, but instead we need some help figuring out just what we’re supposed to be doing.
What “Should” You Do?
You see, we’re told on the one hand, that we should go to school, get good jobs, and to stop whining about long work weeks or bosses that treat us like robots.
On the other hand, we feel pulled to live our dreams – but the only advice we get here is that it’s time to break the status quo and blaze our own trails, living life on our terms wherever we please – oh, and if we’re working more than four hours a week we’re doing it wrong.
But if you’re anything like me, you really don’t want to be a nomad, roaming the earth and living out of a backpack . . . sure, it sounds fun for about two minutes, and then you realize that it sounds a lot more fun than it probably actually is.
The idea of driving for three hours with my kids is enough to make me wish for death. And, as a huge fan of indoor plumbing, my idea of camping is the kind with pay-showers and indoor toilets. You may be inclined to agree.
So we’re definitely not going to be living our dreams out of a backpack any time soon.
For people with little responsibility, it might be perfect to give up a permanent address in favor of a grand adventure.
But that just doesn’t work for you and me.
Because not only do we have responsibilities, but our responsibilities are there because they are things we value.
Our families are there because we love them.
Our mortgages are there because we want a nice place to call home.
We don’t want to pretend these things are anchors bringing us down, and throw them away.
We love and cherish these things, and sacrifice to make sure they’re taken care of.
But we’ve never really seen how to live like the sky is the limit, while loving these things too.
So what’s a person to do? We don’t seem to fit anywhere.
How do we seize the day when we’re not really interested in giving up the stability and creature comforts we’re used to?
How do we find the dreams that feel true and also honor other parts of our lives?
How do we balance the things we’re committed to and responsible for, with really going after whatever we each dream of?
How do we do the impossible?
Doing the Impossible
We have to do the impossible: Seize the day without throwing away the things that really matter to us.
But what does seizing the day in that way actually look like?
Even though George Wald (in the opening quote) was talking about the probability that life would occur, his words inform us here as well.
Because doing the impossible – seizing the day so you’re living your dreams doesn’t look how we expect.
It’s not busting into our boss’ office to quit, followed by a giddy drive to the airport to pick a destination at random.
It’s less of a “seizure”of the day, and more of a slow, methodical, steady dance. It’s not so much a leap as it is a shift.
That shift – how we really seize the day, means taking one step, no matter how small, toward your goal without disrupting the foundations your life is built upon.
So stop beating yourself up for not having the courage to live today as if it’s your last day on earth.
Because, with any luck, it’s not.
Which means you’ve got responsibilities, obligations and relationships that you need to invest in for the long term.
That’s not to say you should be spending time on things that aren’t important to you. It’s simply a recognition of the fact that sometimes, the things that are most important take longer than a day to achieve.
Here’s one way you can do something impossible. You need a big, overarching goal. But not just any goal.
Go Big: Identify your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
This kind of goal is bigger and bolder than a regular goal – even a long term one. A BHAG is nearly impossible, like a super-stretch goal.
Yours may have absolutely nothing to do with racking up frequent flyer miles or even with crossing fun things off your bucket list.
You get to decide what it looks like, because it’s yours.
We already know it’s going to require you to work outside your comfort zone consistently, but if you can pull it off, it’s a life-defining achievement.
Do you have one?
Step away from your fears about writing it down and commit it to paper.
Because the BHAGs that you go after will give you a sense of purpose.
They will push you to be the best person you can be. And if you give yourself the credit you deserve, they will honor all parts of your life. (Yes, you can achieve your BHAG and adore your family at the same time.)
When you’re going after what you truly want, without censoring yourself to stay small or putting yourself in a box someone else labeled “screw the system” you’re doing your impossible.
Any idea what your BHAG might be? Leave it in the comments below. We’d all love the inspiration.
And do me a favor? Share this post with someone who needs it – that person struggling to figure out just how the heck to seize the day.
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