We all have big goals.
I’m not talking about losing weight, or balancing work and play more, or even getting the promotion you’ve been waiting for years. I’m talking about deep, soulful big goals.
Goals that are bigger than what seems possible. Big goals that will push you outside your comfort goals. The kind of goals that you keep to yourself because it seems impossible. Goals worth the tears it takes to make them a reality.
Thinking big and small
I’m a big thinker.
If you show me a handmade soap and tell me you want to sell it, I see Rituals, glossy magazine ads, and billboards. When you show me scraps of paper with notes that might, or might not, be the beginning of a book, I see a New York Times bestseller, television interviews with Oprah and airport bookshops filled with copies in the “best seller” section.
Naturally, this big-thinking of mine has caused me many disappointments. But no-one taught me, or seem able to, how to think small.
A lot of people have tried to talk me out of my big dreams. Sometimes for the better, like the time I was on the verge of buying a dolphin charter holiday resort from a woman I met at a retreat when a good friend openly laughed at my idea and talked me out of it. A few weeks later we received the news that it burnt down. Sometimes, however, for the worst, like the colleagues or bosses convincing me to stay in dead-end jobs or in the same, boring role.
I’ve learned a lot from all these failed ventures. I’ve learned not to listen too much to what other people say, at least not at the cost of your own happiness. I’ve learned how to break down big dreams into smaller, more do-able chunks. And I’ve learned how to be patient and to persevere.
Here are my top 5 strategies if you too have big goals for 2017 that you want to realize:
1. Start small
A big tree doesn’t start off big. It starts off as a small seed, covered and unseen for extended periods, sometimes even years. Only once the external conditions are right does the seed slowly start to grow, one leaf at a time, into the wonderful big tree it was always meant to become.
Having observed and analysed startups for years, particularly interested in what make them a success or failure, I found some patterns. One of the most common reasons is a lack of clarity, which is common especially if you start with too ambitious big goals. Even more common, is scaling too fast. Contrary, the most successful startups I’ve observed all had very big, but clear dreams, and took small, sustainable steps.
An overnight success is only ever the result of a long, hard journey that most people are unaware of. It’s not that they didn’t go through the slow growth, it’s just that you only started noticing the tree once it was big enough to stand out.
So stop comparing yourself to people who’ve been on the journey for years, and focus on only your next step.
There’s an exercise called “Circles and Soup” that helps focus you on which action to take next if you feel overwhelmed or is easily distracted.
- Take a piece of paper and draw three concentric circles, much like a target.
- Label the inner circle “Control”, representing an area that you have full control of. The middle circle represents an area that you are able to influence, but not control, and is labeled “Influence”. The outer circle is labeled “Soup” and represents the items that you can neither control nor influence directly.
- Now, think of your big goal, take some sticky notes, and write down everything that needs to be done or be in place for it to realize, each idea on a separate sticky note.
- Place each sticky note in one of the circles.
- Being aware of the things out of your control, focus on the things that are in your control.
Pick a task from the inner circle to action. By only worrying about things in your direct control, doors inevitably will start opening in the outer circles as you continue on your journey, and you’ll find that it wasn’t necessary to worry at all.
2. Start with the end in mind
As adults we don’t stop using our imagination, we just learn to silence the desire. Our imagination, however, is a particularly powerful tool, with one of my favorite techniques for planning a big goal, an exercise called “Remember the Future”.
Visualize your dream and see yourself one step further than where you want to be. If you want to be the next Richard Branson, see yourself celebrating after a successful trip to the moon and back. If you want to be a bestselling author, see yourself being interviewed on TV and on the cover of your favorite magazine.
Now, working backward one step at a time, break your goal into smaller steps, asking yourself one question repeatedly:
“What needs to be in place for you to achieve this goal?”
Taking the bestseller book example, in order for you to be on a front cover of a magazine, you would have had to sell at least say a million copies of your book worldwide. This is the immediate previous step.
Still very daunting and seeming impossible, take another step back, asking the same question. This time, you probably would have had to be a bestseller in a few cities around the world selling a total of say 100, 000 copies. Continue with the process until you reach a place that feels comfortably achievable.
The key is to break down your big plan into smaller bits, starting with the end in mind, until you get to a point where you feel confident that you can do it.
3. Just start. Anywhere.
Sometimes, however, it’s not the size, but the sheer volume that is overwhelming. When you feel that you have too much on your plate, it’s easy to get lost in deciding which task to do first, resulting in no action at all.
If that sounds familiar, take a deep breath, and just pick one. Anyone. Just start.
According to Newton’s laws, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. So the most important thing to focus on is to get started. Once you feel that you’ve accomplished something, suddenly a long list becomes less daunting.
There is no ‘right’ task. Any task is better than no task, and feedback is more important than getting it right.
So just start.
4. Start with what feels best
I’m a firm believer that your emotions serve as your inner GPS, always trying to help you reach your big goals. When you struggle to pick the most important task to do next, choose the one that feels best, even if it’s not the most important.
When you pick a task that motivates you, you’re much more likely to finish it, which means you are much more likely to take another step closer to your goal.
A journey of a thousand miles start with a single step, and with each step you take, it becomes easier to see whether you are going in the right direction. Like a GPS, only when you start moving can it accurately tell you which direction to go.
5. Don’t do anything
Every so often, no matter what who says or does, you remain paralyzed and overwhelmed, unable to do anything. The best thing to do then is to surrender to the feeling and just not do anything.
Sometimes the most productive thing to do, is to do nothing.
It seems counter-productive not to do anything when there are so many things to be done, but by waiting, you allow for the metaphorical dust to settle. It’s waiting for the fire to burn out. There’s no use trying to fight a fierce fire with a bucket of water. You’re helping no-one when you’re going into a fire unprepared, rather, you’re only increasing the risk.
Sometimes you need to stand back and watch the fire die down before you are able to take the next step. Doing nothing does not mean you’re lazy. In actual fact, doing nothing is one of the hardest things to do in a world obsessed with busy.
Give yourself permission to stop being busy, and wait for a new door to open.
Big dreams are scary, but dreams are supposed to come true, so this post suggests 5 strategies to help you reach your goals in 2017.
Start small, break down your big goals into smaller steps, follow your emotions, and sometimes, just don’t do anything for a while. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and without a strong foundation, it would not have lasted for us to witness it.
Let 2017 be a year of dreams coming true.
Source: Christian Joudrey via www.unsplash.com, I the author confirm I have the right to use this image.