The problem with thinking too big…

DS-01

"Dream big. Reach for the stars. The only limit is in your mind." How often do you hear these words? We're filled with the power of positive mantras in motivational texts, books, and seminars. The problem with expansive thinking, however, is that too big can be just as much of a problem.

The problem of thinking too big, however,

is that you’ll forget to get started.

Or you’ll become afraid of getting started.

The more you dream, the bigger it becomes, the harder it can be to begin.  And sometimes, dreaming can get in the way of taking action. Over time, the practice of not starting becomes the best habit you have—another day to practice not starting, not doing anything.

Action is difficult. Deciding is painful. Manifestation, by definition, requires limitation. In order to make something real, you need to carve out and throw out all of the possible ways that something will not be. To make requires substance and grounding. It requires physicality and reality. It inherently means you limit the dream.

As you sketch your dreams for your life and career, you can have multiple jobs. You can own multiple businesses. Make multiple projects. But dwelling in dream land can hinder action.

The longer you hold onto an idea, the more the idea becomes a part of your identity, and the more wrapped up you become in making sure that idea is what will become the reality. The more goal-oriented and dream-oriented, the harder it gets to start. And if you hold on for too long, that idea of perfect execution becomes so big and monstrous, that if you take action—especially if you take action and fail—you’ll have killed or damaged part of your identity, part of what you’re yearning and hoping for. By chasing the dream with action, you put yourself in a scary place: a place where you might not get what you want.

Making dreams become real is a scary business.  Ignorance can be a blessing. You sidestep the part where you get distracted by all of your fears of failure because you haven't been able to imagine them yet. 

Sometimes hope and patience can turn a dream into an enormous mental glorification, resulting in the worst sin of all:

Not starting.

Specifically, not starting because of fear of failure. Because if you fail, you’re not what you thought you would be.

Our minds get in the way sometimes. Stop that thinking. 

Get started.

Big-picture thinking has its place. So does action. Sometimes you have to get out of your head, into the world, into the making, and start testing. Start building. Make a small thing, make a bunch of mistakes, shake it off, keep going. Over time, you can iterate. Test a couple ideas.

Worry less about getting there and more about being here.

But if you don’t start—you won’t go anywhere.

Do something.

Do Something — Book excerptWant a bit more motivation? A few years ago, I put together a mini-book on motivation with hand-drawn notes, quotes, and words to get you going. The book is available by donation or for free through Gumroad. If you want a copy, grab your own—it's free if you'd like it.

 


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7 Responses to The problem with thinking too big…

  1. This is an interesting curve ball to read, that’s for sure. I’ve been thinking about writing a post called Chasing Mavericks, which would encourage folks to aim for the big wave, and to find the ride of their life.

    But I get what you’re saying, Sarah — and totally agree with it. Perhaps there’s a way to somehow intertwine the two ideas, and that’s a challenge I’m willing to take.

    Very refreshing to read another thoughtful post from you, as you know I’ve been waiting for more. ;-)

  2. […] Sarah Kathleen Peck encourages, “Worry less about getting there and more about being here.” And I agree with what she […]

  3. Yes! I totally agree. I am a small detail merchant and when the idea gets too big for me I just shut down in a panic! some people have no fear at going out into the world. Me, I’m constantly swamped with ethical issues about what I say/do/ask for/teach etc. I find the only way to break through this is to constantly do little things, like write a page of poetry or make a blog post or book a yoga room. It’s got easier the more little things have stacked up to see where it is all heading but every now and then (like just now!) I get a headache thinking about how to ‘make everything work’ to fulfill this grand vision. For me the bigness needs to be felt on the inside when I am participating in my ‘dream’. To imagine it too much is an anathema!
    Wise words.
    Thank you!
    Phoebe
    :-)
    (off to do some unintimidating bits and pieces….)

  4. Spot on! It get bigger and bigger and then suddenly you feel paralyzed. It’s grown into something so big you can’t even imagine where to start, or even worse you start but the results don’t meet your expectations and you stop.

  5. Allison says:

    Sarah,

    This is so true. I find myself overwhelmed by ideas but paralyzed when it comes to choosing which to focus on. And when I do work on one, I flit over to something else the second I’m stuck.

    But the quality of my work suffers when I try to do too many different things. It’s harder but better to choose to focus on one thing and give it your full love and attention until it’s done.

    Thank you for this useful (and timely) advice!

    Allison

  6. thanks for this! as i take risks in my business and strive for success, it’s helpful to consider how paralyzing those GRAND dreams can be. i’m trying to stick with small bite sized dreams. ;)

    • Sarah says:

      A series of small dreams, completed, can become a big change in your life. A big dream left undone, is just nothing but a dream.

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