For many years the 4 minute mile was UNPOSSIBLE.
“Unpossible”?? What the heck are you talking about Andrew?!
Well, some things are technically “impossible”. Period.
Everything else just hasn’t been done, yet. This post is all about such things, so for the sake of clarity, we need a new word for them…
[Abbreviation of Ultimately Now Possible]
as yet unaccomplished, unbelievable, where attempts are underway, but as yet unsuccessful.
This also includes all those things we don’t know if they’re impossible yet, these are the unknown and uninamgined, or the imagined but as yet untested and unattempted. For the sake of simplicity, let’s lump them in and call them UNPOSSIBLE too. Because I believe we should treat both groups of things the same way, which I’ll outline a case for below.
So what’s technically “impossible”? Some examples:
- Creating a black hole here on earth without destroying the planet. Wait, that’s been done in a lab in 2016.
- Transferring information faster than the speed of light. Nope, that was also done using quantum-entangled particles.
- Me walking past a store that sells sugar-free gelato without buying any. Ok, that’s technically possible too, it just hasn’t happened yet.
This is harder than I thought. Wait…
Divide by zero! There, we’ve done it. An impossible something. A little abstract but technically impossible.
Ok, where were we? That’s right…
In 1953, the 4 minute mile was by no means unachievable, it was just as yet UNPOSSIBLE, it hadn’t been achieved, yet. However, so many had tried so hard for so many years that everyone in the world thought of it as technically IMPOSSIBLE.
Well everyone except Roger Bannister. He believed it was only UNPOSSIBLE, and as such pushed himself in ways others didn’t bother.
In 1954 Roger cracked it, and the world was stunned. Then 2 months later, Aussie John Landry got it too. And then the flood gates opened. It’s now been broken by over 1400 different runners.
Why was this achievement thought to be impossible and now is considered the standard for Male middle distance runners?
Once something is known to be possible, it gets solved pretty quickly, and repeatedly.
We just commit more once we know we’re not wasting our energy on an unwinnable problem. And we think: if they can do it, so can I!
But even if you don’t know whether something is possible. How certain are you that it’s not possible?
Because if you’re not certain, then why not commit and give it your best shot anyway?
And think about it, how certain are you really that anything’s impossible? (Refer to the examples above). In fact how certain are you really of anything?? (Quantum Physics makes it pretty clear we really understand very little about what’s going on in the universe and how it all really works).
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Whenever I’m not sure if something’s possible or not, I like to assume it is possible and challenge myself to work out how. I call these challenges UNPOSSIBLE (Ultimately Now Possible). This pole climb seemed very much impossible when I spotted it. No hand holds. Nothing to grasp. Quite high, around 4m tall. Borderline dangerous. I had flashbacks to my indoor climbing injury from earlier in the year, I fell a similar distance onto mats and almost became a quadriplegic!! But the more I thought it through, the more it seemed like there would be a technique that could work. And I knew I could bail safely low to the ground if the technique felt sketchy. I also knew I could bail higher up in a way that I could land safely on my feet if I had to (which wasn’t the case for my injury earlier this year). All of a sudden it seemed not only safe enough to attempt, but shifted from being IMPOSSIBLE to just UNPOSSIBLE. Then it was just a matter of determination and persistence! (It took some practise to get this take). Full post linked from bio, or… http://andrewramsden.com/unpossible
This grey area of uncertainty gives us a lot of space to choose what we want to believe and run under that assumption until proven otherwise.
Now before you all reach through your device screens and try to strangle me. Don’t take this in isolation as a way to justify bad behaviour or for living in fantasy land. Let me explain…
Firstly always, I repeat, always have a clear sense of your chosen values and don’t do anything or decide to believe anything that doesn’t align with them.
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Repeat after me… Believing in the UNPOSSIBLE (Ultimately Now Possible) is not an excuse to do something stupid, selfish, mean or otherwise irresponsible. Always make sure what you choose to believe aligns with your stated values! This climb seemed UNPOSSIBLE, but the higher I got the more I realised it was not going to be safe to achieve today. (There’s no way to safely fail from high up, and let’s be real here, I’m not @alexhonnold). Full post linked from bio, or… http://andrewramsden.com/unpossible
For example, I attended church every Sunday for the first 16 years of my life. Then I decided to stop because I just didn’t believe. When my dad challenged me he said “it’s easy, you just choose to believe”. I told him I can’t just choose to believe, but I wasn’t sure why. Eventually I told him, I need evidence, and I just don’t see any reasonable evidence of what the church teaches.
Here’s the thing, I was half right. You can’t just choose to believe. But you don’t need evidence. Not in the traditional rational sense of the word.
Do advertisers use evidence to sell you on their products? Sometimes. Mostly they sell to your emotions, your identity and your ego.
Do politicians win people over with facts? Rarely. Again, they’re not communicating to your rational mind.
See there is a difference between making a conscious decision and really believing something deep in your CORE, your unconscious, your body, heart and soul. The former is easy to decide, the latter much harder to embed.
So, how then do we navigate uncertainty and grey areas and choose what to believe within them?
No need to worry. Here’s the secret: You’ve already decided!
We can always ask our unconscious (emotions, body, heart, stomach, pelvis, soul) what it believes. And 9 times out of 10 it will have a clear answer for you already. Then we can run with that, until more information is available that might influence or change that decision.
Asking your unconscious for answers is essentially transrationalism in practise. How exciting!
How do you ask your unconscious?
This is where (for the uninitiated), things get weird!
At least it was weird for me.
If you’ve read my posts before you’d be familiar with my background. In summary…
I came from a very rational and technical background. I was a student of science and maths, my favourite subject in my senior years at school was “Logic”—yep, my school had a subject all about logic, cool right?
Ok so I was a big geek. I loved Star Trek and I wanted to be like Spock—Spock came from an alien race called the Vulcans who used only logic and suppressed all emotion.
Up until the last handful of years I ignored my body completely, suppressed my emotions, and any energetic or spiritual connection and even physical discomfort and pushed myself hard. I relied on my rational conscious mind alone. Eventually by 2014 this led to complete burn out and long-term fatigue. But up until that point it served me pretty well. Or so I thought. I really had no idea what I was missing out on.
So to be honest, this is still quite new to me (only been exploring this for a handful of years). Here I’ve listed a series of steps to follow if you’re new to this process, but as you gain more experience you’ll know which steps you can skip, reorder and move through quickly. Ie you won’t need to do all these steps every time, they just help get things flowing. Ok, here we go…
Step 1—Get grounded. Stand up, feet parallel shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, Bob up and down on your toes, heels bouncing up off the ground and back down again. Each time you bounce up take a little breath and push the air out as you land. Bonus points if you push down by your sides with your hands as you drop down like you’re pushing the air down beside you. Double bonus points if you make sounds, make a heartfelt “Ha!” as you drop down. I say bonus points, but these steps really help a lot! Then have fun with it, move your hips, bounce around, smile. Put some music if it helps. But don’t bounce too high. This is about sending your energy down to connect with the ground.
Step 2—Breathe. Take some long slow deep breaths. Down into your stomach. Try not to move your shoulders too much. Imagine the breath is coming in through every pore and filling you up from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
Step 3—Sense. Feel into your body. Scan from the top of your head down through every body part. Is there any pain or discomfort? Cool or warm spots? Any areas that are right or holding tension? Different areas of the body actually map to different
Step 4—Feel. Feel into your emotions. It helps to focus on physical areas of the body (this is where step 3 is really useful). What’s coming up for you? Sickly feeling in your stomach? Lightness and joy from your heart? Heavy sensation in the solar plexus? Warmth and intensity in the pelvis? These feelings can be subtle at times, especially if you’re used to ignoring or suppressing them (as I was). They can be obviously be quite different at different points in time. But good to be aware of.
Step 5—Pop the question. Ask yourself the question you want the answer for. And sense into the body. What’s changed? You’ll receive your answer. Generally if you get a sense of lightness, then the unconscious is onboard with your idea, plan, question. If you get a sense of contraction or heaviness, then it’s not onboard. In which case something’s not aligned, not quite right. And you can ask further questions to work out what that might be.
That’s the basics! For more advanced techniques you can always go and work with a kinesiologist. They are experts at asking your unconscious questions and getting reliable answers.
False positives/negatives? Yep, they’re possible. In general this only occurs if you have internal conflict. Either:
- Limiting beliefs that resist the answer that’s come back from your body.
- You are subconsciously holding onto old values that aren’t your own (eg your parents’ values, or your own old patterns).
This is where the conscious and unconscious can work together. If the response that comes back isn’t what you expected you can spend some time trying to work out what that means for you. For another perspective, feel free to bounce it off a trusted friend or your coach, but remember: You are the expert when it comes to your life and experience, so ultimately you’ll know if their feedback resonates (again, listen to your body).
Complex stuff! It takes some time to work out how to work with the unconscious best. But incredibly valuable the more intuitive you allow yourself to become with it.
So, how do we “choose to believe”?
We look for ways to encourage the unconscious to accept the perspective we have consciously chosen (yes, I do realise this is essentially ‘confirmation bias’, here we are using it to our advantage):
- We clear out conflicting beliefs and values by working with a transformational coach, body-psychotherapy and/or bodywork (deep tissue massage with intention).
- We can use affirmations to keep reminding the unconscious of our new truth.
(Again, remember we only do this if it aligns with our chosen values, the idea is not to excuse wildly irresponsible behaviour or harm anyone through what we choose to believe).
Ultimately, this allows us to believe and tap into the power of the transrational (unprovable but incredibly valuable wisdom). This allows us to focus on and utilise what’s USEFUL rather than being limited by what’s CORRECT (only what has already been thoroughly researched, rationally understood, documented and reviewed).
It also allows us to believe in the UNPOSSIBLE, and achieve so much more as a result.
If there’s any doubt, I choose to believe it’s possible!
What UNPOSSIBLE things do you believe in?