Want to achieve the impossible? Psychologist Dr. Benjamin Hardy doesn’t think that’s crazy – in fact, he wants to help you get there.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology, which is essentially the study of leadership, strategy, and motivation. He spent his time at Clemson researching how the human mind sets and pursues goals, as well as how it responds to change.
A deep interest in self-development led him from blogging as a pastime to becoming an author and eventually having the opportunity to collaborate with world-class experts like Dan Sullivan. The two wrote three books together in addition to Dr. Hardy’s individual publications.
Their latest project delves into the concepts of large-scale personal growth and what is truly required to become a 10x entrepreneur. I had the pleasure of speaking with him and asking some questions about the book, his experiences, and his studies as an organizational psychologist in this podcast.
Narrative Controls Everything
Dr. Hardy’s answers to the ambitious mind center around two concepts: narrative and time. The first has to do with self-perception. Who do you think you are? What are you capable of? What’s a reasonable goal to set?
Oftentimes, the answers to those questions aren’t entirely accurate. They don’t do justice to our potential or the amount of time and effort we can put in to achieve something. Narratives effectively define actions, and if we’re not actively shaping our own narratives, then it’s difficult to set ambitious goals.
The second aspect, time, refers to who we are in the past, present, and future. Self-narratives eventually shift regardless of whether we want them to or not. It’s safe to say that who you were ten years ago is not who you are today. That’s inevitable. But sometimes, individuals hold onto the idea of being the same person in every moment of their life.
It’s an interesting part of psychology that ties back to the idea of perception. Time is not sequential, or step-by-step, according to Dr. Hardy. Time is actually holistic, meaning everything is relative in real-time. How we act today is based on how we frame both our pasts and futures.
“I think a trained approach that we have, especially here in Western culture, is to assume that the past is what’s shaping the present and to take the past and use that as the explanation for the present – that I am who I am because of my past.” He says.
“That seems intuitive, but when it comes to psychology, it’s the opposite… it’s the present that shapes the meaning of the past, and it always is that way. Even memory is a reconstruction.”
Self-perception is a major barrier to the pursuit and achievement of big goals. Studying countless successful and aspiring entrepreneurs, Dr. Hardy finds that we all go through the same experience when trying to get ambitions off the ground. There’s an initial inspiration, but also what he calls a ‘point of no return’. It’s less ominous than it sounds.
The point of no return is a psychological benchmark at which we’re forced to make decisions that alter our lives and reshape them in a certain way. It’s the point at which we decide to commit to big goals or simply back away from them. For entrepreneurs, this often comes with financial, social, and reputational risks that are difficult to overcome.
Letting your perception of future identity determine your decisions can lead to a stifling avoidance of risk. Self-doubt and fear of failure creep in, and our dreams become further away from reality.
Dr. Hardy’s advice? Utilize your past as a tool. Look at the past and future to fully operate in the present.
You get to determine in the present what you do as a result of past experiences. You also get to determine what it means. There’s no point getting overwhelmed by guilt or blame if what happened a few years ago didn’t turn out as anticipated.
That experience of the past is now a life lesson that will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.
Setting Impossible Goals
The concept of impossibility is a construct. It’s something that our brains believe in and therefore fall victim to at the cost of ultimate self-achievement. Who can blame us, though, considering the world as it is today? From birth right up until the end, most people are led to believe that they only have one choice in life, and that’s to assume their assigned role without asking any questions. There’s a certain element of safety in doing so, which is probably why so many individuals ‘stay the path’ and don’t even try to fulfill their dreams. Dr. Hardy would go as far as to say that some of us don’t even bother dreaming or using our imaginations at all. Well, at least not for goal setting.
“When was the last time you even spent five minutes actually thinking about a future that you want, versus just waking up, plugging into the phone, and then going to work?… I think that it’s a really useful construct to play with the idea of impossible. Usually as people, we don’t entertain things that we think are impossible simply because we think they’re impossible. So we don’t even spend much time imagining them, let alone trying to strategize them, think about it, let alone get committed to it.”
Unlocking 10x Growth
Realizing your potential to do great things starts with reimagining what progress looks like. Time frames are a particularly tough construct for many of us to wrap our heads around. We think of success as a linear journey, starting from point A and ending at point B.
In their new book, Dr. Hardy and his co-author Dan Sullivan recommend framing things by factors of 10. This doesn’t necessarily have to be literal – it alludes to massive leaps forward, much like a young child going from crawling to walking.
Defining your next factor of 10 and setting a slightly uncomfortable timeframe to reach it of three to five years is the key to unlocking 10x growth.
You don’t even have to do 10 times more work either – it’s all about making the most of your time with smarter and faster decisions. This requires a shift in mindset from one focused on incremental growth towards something more expansive.
Journaling, short-term goal setting, and learning to recognize and understand patterns are all tools that can help here. The idea is to create a system that allows for constant growth and development instead of settling into complacency.
My conversation with Dr. Benjamin Hardy proves there is a way to reach your goals faster than you ever thought possible, and it all starts with understanding the power of 10x thinking. By defining a clear vision for the future and implementing strategies that ensure consistent progress, anyone can begin their journey towards smashing the status quo.