Is There A Benefit From Trying To Do The Impossible?

There are goals in life that range from the easy to the difficult to the impossible. Is there value in doing things in each?

For the easy tasks or goals, they certainly seem worthwhile. If you can accomplish a series of easy tasks and show incremental progress, they can add up to significant steps forward. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Similarly, difficult tasks occasionally need to be undertaken. And while they might be challenging, and might even lead to failure, when they are accomplished it can be very rewarding. In addition, attempting something that is difficult can offer us the opportunity to grow and reach our potential.

But what about the impossible? If we can never accomplish something, is there anything to be gained from the attempt? Is there a benefit from trying to do the impossible?

This also raises another question: how can we categorize a task that we are about to undertake? How can we tell if something is going to be easy or difficult? Or difficult versus impossible? Are we able to know, with any accuracy, what’s impossible and what’s not?

In addition, are there different levels of impossible? Where do we draw the line between noble and foolhardy, when it comes to the impossible? Achieving world peace seems impossible, but the attempt might be considered valuable. It is not possible, in contrast, for me to jump to the moon. Is it foolish of me to try?

Or another example: there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. The laws of thermodynamics prohibit it. Is there anything to be gained from trying to build one? Or is it a waste of time and effort that could be going to a better-chosen task?

Related questions: How do you define success? How do we know what we don’t know? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? Is understanding possible?



4 thoughts on “Is There A Benefit From Trying To Do The Impossible?”

  1. Absolutely! There is often a tremendous amount of benefit in trying to accomplish the impossible. The key is not to get disappointed when you don’t reach the goal, but instead, show progress as a result of the attempt. I’ll provide two examples.

    First, I should note that I am 49 years old, and I’ve only ice skated a handful of times in my life. Now, let’s stay I wanted to become a professional ice skater. I could get an expert personal trainer. I could practice hours a day and love it. I could watch recordings of my practice, noting the successes and failures of my work in the attempts to get better.

    Of course, while over time I may become proficient — even a little good — at becoming an ice skater, I will never become a professional. Why? Because I’d be competing with others who started ice skating when they were very young. While I am training as my body is beginning to deteriorate, these other aspiring competitors are practicing while their bodies are building. Also, their muscles and minds are forming to the point where they could become naturals. I will never become a natural.

    Now, as I noted, let’s assume I loved practicing hours a day, and I became a pretty good ice skater. Bravo, Michael! I may never reach the goal. But I gained a lot in the process.

    For my second example, let’s assume I wanted to build muscle, but I had no weights and no equipment to accomplish the goal. So, to reach my primary intention, I set the secondary purpose of wanting to push down a brick wall, remove a secured bolt from that wall, and lower the floor by pushing real hard with my legs. None of these secondary purposes is achievable. But if I adequately nourished myself, I would build muscle. Again, bravo, Michael!

    Attempting the impossible, if not a foolhardy effort, can help you achieve a lot.

    1. In the ice skating example, is there anything that is gained from the goal that could not also be gained from a more realistic goal?

      If, for example, you set yourself the task of simply learning to ice skate rather than be a professional, would there be a different outcome? Or perhaps, the goal could be to join an age-appropriate recreational hockey league, which is something that could be done.

      Is there something inherent in the nature of the impossible that is important?

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