Nothing is impossible, just ask Nelson Mandela

Nothing is impossible, just ask Nelson Mandela


When it comes to tackling an ‘impossible’ task, we all have a tendency to inhabit metaphorical cages.  Sometimes the cages are put there by others, and the locks and bars are strong. 

Other cages are self-imposed, caused by feelings of panic, being overwhelmed or failing to see “the forest for the trees”.  A huge task or project or ambition seems insurmountable.  Being frozen in fear means that nothing happens or can happen. 

The late Nelson Mandela understood the meaning of ‘impossible’.  His incarceration over many years in unspeakable circumstances fostered a greatness of spirit. He had countless moments of despair and yet, reading his story, we see that he consciously decided to tackle the mountains in his way during and beyond his release from prison.  His experience of adversity is tremendously pertinent for whenever any of us feel crushed by the thought of ‘the impossible’.




Mandela’s hard-earned wisdom is priceless: “It only seems impossible until it’s done.”  Consider the following as you attempt making something possible.


Don’t make excuses – visualise your goals.  Keep in mind what you want, and ignore detractors (both inner and outer).  You don’t have to bore everyone in the process of determining your goals, though.  Use quiet time for determining and finessing what you aspire to, visualize it, feel it, think it and begin planning accordingly.  

Don’t be overwhelmed – break tasks into segments.  Impossible objectives by definition mean a huge number of things to surmount.  Some aspects will be manageable, even trivial; others are very difficult and risk failure.   It’s a good idea to have a “battle plan”, with tasks broken down –  logistics, who, what, where, how, when, how much?

Don’t lose focus – complete items one by one.  There will always be unfolding issues, competing personalities and loose ends to contend with, and possibly you may need to re-route from time to time.  A balancing act between focus and flexibility is tricky, but remember the amazing Philippe Petit who walked a tightrope in 1974 between the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York.   His well-documented feat was astonishing, but he spent years planning, studying and practising and always knew that “death is very close”.

Don’t complain – congratulate yourself for completion.  We shouldn’t spend too much time complaining – it’s a drag for everyone around us. If things go wrong, we should learn from the experience. If you end up being negative and whining – you are remaining stuck in a metaphorical prison. 

Congratulate yourself on what you achieve – I will later this week! It boosts your morale and galvanizes determination to keep going. 

Achieving the impossible is equal parts grit and grace.  Let’s learn from Mandela – every one of us can carve a unique path to our goals. 

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.


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