Pillar #3: Possible vs. Impossible

“Open your mind to your possibilities vs. your impossibilities.”

If you read my last two posts, you’ll know that this is the third post of a four-part series. In this post, we are going to talk about the third pillar of the athlete mindset about fixating on our possibilities vs. our impossibilities. We’ll discuss what it means to have a growth mindset and how it influences our ability to achieve limitless possibilities.

(+) Possible vs. Impossible (-)

Athletes have the uncanny ability to lean towards what’s possible vs. what’s impossible. When we talk about possibilities vs. impossibilities the polarity is evident. One pole is positive and the other, negative. In terms of our mindset, we can draw a comparison between the positive and negative, possible vs. impossible, and a growth vs. a fixed mindset.

Having a growth mindset represents the belief that we can develop our abilities with work, effort, and dedication. We can achieve mastery, no matter what. A fixed mindset imposes the idea that our skills and traits are fixed or innate and that no amount of work or effort will make a difference. “We are stuck this way, and no amount of effort is going to change it.”

If I were to ask you,

“Where do you land on the spectrum between a growth mindset and fixed mindset, what would you say?”

You would likely tell me,

“I’m neither one or the other 100% of the time… It changes depending on the day, heck, sometimes depending on the hour.”

…Which is entirely accurate.

None of us are one or the other, ‘growth’ or ‘fixed,’ ‘possible’ or ‘impossible,’ 100% of the time.

Our minds perform the balancing act between positive and negative on a regular basis.

It’s important to acknowledge that we are all a balance of positive and negative from the way we think, to the beliefs we have about ourselves, to the way we approach the challenges we face. The scales tip one way or the other depending on our experiences, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

We all have the two voices inside our head that we’ve all listened to before: the angel on our shoulder (positive self-talk) and the devil (self-doubt). The angel and the devil often ‘duke it out’ and battle for control of our conscious. The trouble is that the voice of self-doubt can be pushier than the voice of positive self-talk. The trick is not to get pushed around…

What’s great about acknowledging that our mindset changes from day-to-day or sometimes hour-to-hour is that if it changes, it means we can work on it and develop it over time (with a bit of effort). We can put the voice of self-doubt in its place and focus on our possibilities.

Exceptional leaders in business or in life, like exceptional athletes, remind themselves to focus on their possibilities on a regular basis. It takes self-discipline to keep returning to what’s possible vs. what’s impossible, but we can all do it.

The question is, how?

When we open our eyes to it, inspiration is abundant. For athletes, in almost every gym or locker room there are words plastered on the walls.

“You’ll never regret a workout, you’ll only regret the workout you don’t do.”

“You’re capable of more than you think.”

“You don’t grow from the things in life that are easy, so, work hard!”
“RIP excuses.”


You’ve probably seen motivation posted all around your workplace or the abundant inspiration on your social media feed too…


We need reminders to keep our “possibilities” front-of-mind, but there’s a better way than relying on motivational posters to stay focused on what’s possible (even ones with sharks). We can pull from our own experience to strengthen our growth mindset.

What’s your ah-ha moment?

We all have “ah-ha” moments when we have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve success. Take a few moments with me to identify one of your ah-ha moments (seriously take a few seconds to think).

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do and achieved success?

What did it take to push through?

Was it something physical, like recovering from an injury or running a marathon, where you could have undoubtedly given up? Maybe it was a conflict at work that required teamwork and critical thinking to find the solution? Or maybe it was a time when you rebuilt trust in a relationship that seemed all but lost? Maybe it was the loss of a loved one and surviving the grief is a victory in itself?

Regardless of the scenario, we all have these ‘ah-ha’ moments where we’ve found it within ourselves to push through.

Ask yourself,
What was it that helped you push through?
Which traits helped you?
Which strengths made the difference?
Which elements your mindset were critical for success?

We’ve succeeded in the face of adversity before. So, we can and must trust that we will prevail. We ALL have it within ourselves to push through. We CAN trust this way of thinking. We can extend vivid optimism because we’ve done it before.

The byproduct of this introspective process is that it reinforces our growth mindset. It reinvigorates our traits, abilities, and the mental fortitude it takes to become successful.

Now it’s time to pass it on to your team.

In the next article, we’ll talk about the fourth and final pillar of the athlete mindset: why it’s so important to empower your team. Stay tuned.


With gratitude,

Mike Shaw

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