A couple years after my husband, Gary, died—after I took an early retirement and relocated to southern California—I discovered that I left my heart in Oregon.

One of my goals was to relocate back. The only [huge] problem was, the destination resort area at the foot of the Cascades that had been our home for 14 years isn’t known for affordable housing. I moved away because it was impossible to stay.


Photo: Pentax Forums


In time, though, and through miraculous intervention, I am now happily ensconced in a beautiful little guest house high on the side of a hill overlooking Bend, Oregon. With my own deck and sweeping views. And at an incredibly affordable cost.

Impossible. Done. Check.

Here’s another far-reaching target: I’d like to supplement my cancer widow income with writing income. Do you know how improbable it is to break into today’s publishing world?

And so I listed some specific writing goals, rolled up my sleeves, and have been putting in the hours (and hours) of writing.

As a result, I sold three magazine articles in recent months; I am a regular contributing writing for three web-based cancer organizations; my blog is posted at She Knows, a site for top female bloggers by invitation only; and my book proposal is setting on the desks (or maybe by now in the garbage cans) of two agents and one publisher, by invitation.

Nothing huge in any of that, but all steps in the right direction.

So, why is it important to have goals?

Because most of us long to do things that fit with our unique blend of gifts and abilities (we call this passion)

Because nothing grand ever happens without first a dream, without someone first seeing it in his/her mind’s eye

Because if we don’t plan for purpose and adventure, then the ordinary-everyday takes over. Which means there will never be time for a more purposeful life

Because someone needs to accomplish large and foolish things, and it might as well be you and me

There were a number of things Gary and I did in an effort to create meaning and purpose from his cancer diagnosis.

We established a non-profit; I wrote for grant funding and booked speaking engagements; and we set off across the country—working around our day jobs—sharing what we were doing to live well with terminal disease.

Here’s the thing you need to know: We had never founded a non-profit; I had managed grants in my work at the St. Charles Cancer Center, but had never written for grant funding; Gary was the type who would have paid to not speak in front of crowds.

We were way out of our league. And yet, we persisted toward the goal of bringing hope and encouragement to others dealing with cancer.

From our experience, here are 3 simple but effective steps for working toward the impossible:

1. Capture your goals in writing. Writing them down helps clarify what it is you really want to do. And every time you read back over your list, it refreshes the vision. Which is why we should keep it handy where we can read it daily.

In her book Write it Down, Make It Happen, Henriette Anne Klauser explains how the reticular activating system (RAS) housed at the base of our brain stems evaluates incoming data — sending the urgent to the active part of our brains, and the non-urgent to the subconscious:

Keeping track on paper changes the conversation in your own head. It helps you to pay attention, to embellish your ideas, and record your inspirations. It pushes you toward the impossible.

2. Determine first steps. After you’ve written your goals, it’s important to figure out first steps. If you’ve always wanted to volunteer with an international humanitarian group, for example, but you never decided how or with whom, never applied for a passport, never scheduled time off … well then, what are your chances of getting off the tarmac?

3. Apply elbow grease. What can you do today, or this week, that moves you toward the goal? Break it down. And then roll up your sleeves and work in the direction of your dreams.

In Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, Alice says to the Queen:

One cannot believe impossible things. There’s no use trying.

To which the Queen replies:

When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

How about you? What large and improbable dreams are in your heart that only you can do with your unique blend of passions, gifts, abilities, and life experiences?

Perhaps you should locate paper and pen—or your laptop—and start writing.

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