Goal-setting is a time-honored pillar of self-improvement. Most recommend setting difficult-but-achievable goals, reach the goal, then set another similarly-difficult goal. This is an excellent way to systematically progress and is exactly what I use regularly.
However, I also utilize close-to-if-not-completely-impossible goals like Bruce references in the above pic. I usually use this method for very specific situations, like my hobbies. Here are two examples:
Example #1: Back when I was running ultramarathons, I would pick one particular runner who was enjoying a high level of success. The goal was simple - I wanted to beat them. If we're running the same race, I wanted to finish ahead of them. If we were running the same race but different years, I'd want to beat their time. I would study everything about them... how they train, what they eat, what gear they use, how they prepared for races... whatever. Since there would be inevitable differences between us, I would alter whatever they did to account for said differences. They were far more successful than I was, so I would use them as the model. And they would be the rabbit I would chase. It was incredibly motivating.
I would also do this with specific elements of running. For example, I wanted to get better at running uphill. The solution? Pick someone who was a phenomenal uphill runner, then shoot to beat them.
The key- the people I would choose were really good. I only surpassed my targets about 10% of the time, but the net effect made me a FAR better runner.
Example #2: Jiu jitsu. I spent the first two years of doing jiu jitsu learning as many of the basic, fundamental skills as I could without any specific targets. Once I felt I had a decent, well-rounded base, I wanted to start aiming for the stars. So I picked out the best jiu jitsu player I regularly trained with, and set the goal of being able to regularly beat them. So I do the same thing - closely study everything they do, then adapt it to myself then begin working hard.
Much more so than the ultrarunning goals, this one will, in all likelihood, be impossible. As a forty year old dude, I'm already fighting the losing battle with age. The target is significantly younger and more naturally athletic. However, jiu jitsu is a martial art specifically designed for a weaker, smaller, less athletic person to defeat a physically-superior opponent. That makes this goal theoretically possible, but it would require me to REALLY master every single technique and get creative with synthesizing new shit to give myself a competitive advantage. To make this goal even more difficult, the target excels at both technical proficiency and creative synthesis of the basics. There's an extremely high probability I will fail at this goal. But...
The lesson: If there's something you really want to master, don't be afraid of picking impossible goals.
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