Think big. If you’re anything like me (and you are reading my website so I think that’s a fair assumption) then you’ve probably heard those two words plenty of times before. Hell, you’ve probably even had several people tell you that if you want to chase your dreams, achieve great success, and be able to set your own path in life then you need to think big. But why stop there? Why stop at thinking big? Thinking is only one part of the success-process (that’s right I hyphenated those two words to make it sound like a 1990s infomercial product - deal with it). There is another, more important, part to fulfilling your dreams: actually doing something about it.
Which is why my motto is: Don’t just think big; do big.
Thinking versus Doing – aka “Paralysis by Analysis”
It’s all fine and dandy for people to tell you to think big but that just puts the entire focus on the thinking, or planning, stage. And I’ll be honest, this is NOT where the most progress is achieved.
Sure, thinking things through and undertaking some effective planning sessions are great tools but they don’t actually get too much done do they? If you’ve got a great idea then sitting down and planning it all the way through just doesn’t work. It blunts your creative flow, it halts your progress, and it drastically effects your enthusiasm. And if you put too much emphasis on the planning stage (i.e. thinking big) then sometimes you never actually make it to the doing phase. This is known as Paralysis by Analysis.
Many people have grand plans and big dreams, but not many achieve them. Why? Because they spend their life analysing the possibilities, they waste their time worrying about every little detail, and they never take a chance to actually do something about their dream.
They think and think and think and think and then think some more just for good measure. They think things through to the millionth possible degree trying to factor in every possible outcome (“so I could quit my job to start my own business but then what if the US President dies in a freak golfing accident which triggers another world war, causing oil prices spiral out of control, and resulting in a massive depression? I'd better not even bother...”) just to feel “safe”. But to be blunt, these people are not being safe. They are just making excuses.
Are you one of those people? Are you making excuses for your life and for why you’re not chasing your dream? If you say no then I say you’re lying because everyone makes excuses for themselves at some point. I still catch myself thinking in this excuse-oriented mindset because it is an easy habit to fall back into. But just because something is easy doesn’t make it right.
The key to snapping this bad habit is to learn to recognise what you are doing when you make excuses and ask yourself why. Why are you making excuses? Why are you holding yourself back? Why are you not even trying? What is it about the possible fulfilment of your dreams that you don’t want?
Most of the time the answers will be fear-based (e.g. fear of failure, fear of new things, fear or change) but guess what? That fear is completely normal. But so is pushing through it.
As I mentioned in a previous article, fear is useless and irrational. It does not actually provide us with much benefit. In an evolutionary sense it was used as a system to invoke sudden bursts of energy (i.e. strength for fight, or speed for flight) to save us from life threatening situations. Except now we don’t face many of those situations in our everyday lives and instead we just create a sense of fear when looking to the future.
When we feel this fear it invokes our natural fight-or-flight mechanism. We are urged to put up a fight or run away. The problem is that there is nothing to fight. The fear we feel is a fear that we created through imaginary negative outcomes set in the future, meaning that what we are fearing has not even happened yet. Because there is nothing to "fight" the result is that we always activate the "flight" option when we are in this fearful mindset. We cannot fight what does not yet exist but we can certainly try to run away from the possibility. This is exactly what we are doing when we hold ourselves back from our dreams through fear.
I would also wager heavily that most fears people have about their dreams are not directly life threatening. I bet that not too many people have dreams that are so dangerous that anything but the successful completion of that dream will mean death. So the question needs to be asked: if you cannot actually die by chasing your dream then why are you fearing it?
Try before you die
Too many people die with regrets, wishing they had followed their inner passion and gone after their dreams. But it is not that they didn’t achieve their goals that really haunts them. It is that they never even tried.
Chasing your dream and missing out is much better than dying without trying.
When I talk about chasing dreams I am not just focused on the actual accomplishment and fulfilment of said dreams but also on the wonderful benefits received just by trying. Here is why chasing your dream is good for you:
Reason 1 for chasing your dream - you live life with purpose
When you coast through life, avoiding challenges and not chasing dreams, then you are not living life with purpose. You are just living from one day, one bill, and one job to the next. But when you chase your dreams then your life becomes filled with a purpose. A strong and meaningful reason for your existence. Suddenly every little action becomes a step towards something greater rather than just a means to an end. This attitude shift makes everyday living a whole lot more fun.
Reason 2 for chasing your dream - you meet wonderful people
When you set your mind and attitude on fulfilling your goals you start sending out different signals to the rest of the world. You start showing a positive, productive, and happy attitude and that starts attracting similar people. You will naturally find those people that are living their lives with purpose and passion. And these people will want to help you succeed. They will share their insights and their experiences and they will do whatever they can to help you on your road to success.
Reason 3 for chasing your dream - you might actually achieve it
Brace yourselves. I know this may sound crazy and far-fetched but when you take action and attempt to fulfil your dreams and goals then sometimes you actually succeed, and in some of those times you even achieve more than you ever could have dreamed of. Crazy huh?
But do you know that there is only one single action that guarantees you will never achieve your dreams? Doing nothing. When it comes to your dreams, doing anything is always better than doing nothing.
Don’t just think big; do big.
And we’re back full circle to where I started this article. I’m not just encouraging you to start living your life with passion, to follow your dreams and find something that excites you, but I’m telling you to do it in the biggest possible way that you can imagine.
If you dream of starting your own business but need money then get out there and find some venture capitalists to pitch to. Prepare a kick-ass presentation, impress them with your idea (and your passion) and then ask them for MORE money than you initially budgeted for. It's your dream, don’t settle for less.
If you have a great idea for a novel series but are fearing your lack of credibility as a writer then sit yourself down and just write the bloody thing. Not just one book, but the whole series of books. By the time you have written your five-book masterpiece I guarantee that you’ll have more than enough credibility and that will result in more than enough success.
If it has been your life-long dream to travel around the world and see every country then do not settle for a quick three week trip squeezed in between work projects. Quit your job, book your tickets and just go. Indefinitely.
That’s how the real dream-achievers do it (another 1990s informercial style phrase). That’s how they succeed. When it comes to their dreams they don’t just think big – they do big too. And so should you.