Technology enthusiast, passionate about building great teams and scaling organisations
Technology has redefined big by opening up possibilities that didn’t seem feasible just a few years ago. It has brought about a thinking revolution that pushes the boundary of human potential.
Now more than ever, it’s easy to believe that there’s no limit to how far we can think. Visualizing the future, not with the limitations of today, but with the possibilities of tomorrow is a great source of mental power. It redirects our energy to find solutions instead of worrying about our problems.
The ability to think big is the first step to break out of our bubble of self-imposed limits, channel our energies to explore a bigger and better future, and map out the path ahead to make it possible.
Thinking big is not daydreaming or imagining a beautiful future, it’s a mental practice that allows us to take active control over our own life. Learning how to Think Big can shift us from being prisoners of our minds to finding freedom in our thoughts.
“The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief” – David J. Schwartz
The old adage “sky’s the limit” inspires the practice to think big. Thinking big does not guarantee success as a good recipe for thinking practice can pull us up while a bad one can push us down.
How Thinking Big Can Be Dangerous
Crossing the comfort zone
Thinking big involves crossing the mental boundary of comfort to explore the discomfort. Thinking about these goals may invoke feelings of fear and doubt as we do not see the path yet, but one needs to be careful as this is where things can get a little bit challenging.
As Michael Hyatt says “There’s a fine line between your discomfort zone and delusional zone. Goals in the discomfort zone challenge. Goals in the delusional zone just discourage.” Knowing when we are practical and when we are unreasonable makes a huge difference in our ability to think big and think right.
Stumbling your way up the ladder
Imagine a ladder. Every step on the ladder takes us closer to the top of the ladder. Along the way, we may stumble and come back a few steps or fall completely down. In these moments, simply thinking big won’t get us ahead, we need to think differently.
A wrong thinking practice can lead to wishful thinking – repeating the same steps up the ladder and hoping it will lead to different outcomes. Being stuck in this mindset and assuming we are thinking big can also prevent us from re-evaluating our strategies, reconsidering our options, and even question if it’s the right ladder.
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster” – Stephen R. Covey
Knowing when to push forward and when it’s time to step back and rethink is an important component of thinking big.
Enthusiasm without the career capital
Cal Newport advises “Great work doesn’t just require great courage, but also skills of great (and real) value”. He calls these rare and valuable skills that enable us to do great work as career capital.
Thinking big can lure us into giving up what we have with a promise of a better tomorrow without the financial security and right skills to back up our vision.
It’s important to visualize the path ahead as it sets the direction, but then take small steps in that direction, validate our ideas and refine them further. Jumping right to action with our big ideas may hit us so hard that we may lose the opportunity to see them come to life.
The right attitude to thinking big requires assessing the career capital to stand apart and then taking steps to acquire it.
Thinking Big In Action
“Working hard is great, but don’t confuse motion for progress. Assuming that working harder is the answer to winning is like assuming thoughts and prayers can solve climate change” – Julie Zhuo
Great ideas do not guarantee success, nor does hard work and perseverance. It’s the path that we choose to implement those ideas, tiny decisions every step of the way, openness to updating our belief system with the courage to change course if required, and having checks and balances in place to learn from our systems that can make success possible.
It’s still not guaranteed as there’s a certain element of luck involved, which is not under our control.
Thinking big doesn’t end with the visualization of a better future, it’s rather the beginning of a commitment to think right every step of the way.
Let’s explore how thinking big looks in action:
1. Know Your “Why”; “What” Will Follow
Your WHY defines your vision while your WHAT lays down the things you do to achieve that vision.
“When we communicate from the outside in, when we communicate WHAT we do first, yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information, like facts and features, but it does not drive behavior. But when we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls decision-making, and our language part of the brain allows us to rationalize those decisions” – Simon Sinek
Knowing your Why will not only align others to your direction, but it will also serve as the guiding principle every step of the way.
When you think big and imagine your future self, don’t start with WHAT, ask WHY – what do I want and why do I want it.
Once your Why is clear – why you do what you do – your what will find its way to be in harmony with your why.
Starting with why will trigger a motion that will push your visualization from imagination to the reality of your purpose.
2. Take that first step; it isn’t scary
Thinking big can drive you crazy if you use it to plan every step of the way. Let’s be real. You don’t know the path yet and things can change at a very fast pace.
You don’t need a plan initially, what you really need is momentum. As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
That first step is crucial as well as irrelevant.
It’s crucial to put your thinking into action, to not waste time in creating a perfect plan to get started, to not let your fears push you back, and to feel the energy that comes from seeing things in action.
It’s irrelevant in that it doesn’t matter where and how you start, what matters is how you adapt and incorporate changes along the way.
Don’t overthink. Define a few steps as you see at the moment, pick the one that aligns best with your strengths and just go and do it. Take this advice from Paul Graham “The way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things.”
3. Be consistent; be deliberate
Nothing big ever comes to life without being intentional in doing daily work. It’s doing work even when no one is watching, when you don’t feel like it, or when your mind tries to trick you into distractions.
Putting in small effort consistently, making tiny progress every day may seem insignificant at the moment, but its benefits compound over time.
Consistency and deliberate practice not only builds the momentum and helps you push forward, but it also acts as a medium to experiment to try new ideas and carve out a path with the maximum potential.
“Deliberate practice can open the door to a world of possibilities that you may have been convinced were out of reach. Open that door” – Anders Ericsson
An effective practice to manage consistency is to do daily planning. At the end of each day, plan 3-4 tasks that you need to accomplish the next day. This simple habit will tune your mind to the work you need to do instead of reacting to everyday events.
Consistency and deliberate practice will keep your thoughts aligned with the future it envisions.
4. Embrace discomfort; practice experimentation
Yes, your life may suck initially as results may be disappointing. But if you do not try and experiment with fear of failure, you may never identify the one bet that will drive your idea to success.
Results improve either because your practice makes them better or you find the key project that pushes your idea forward.
It’s not possible without embracing discomfort, taking an attitude of a learner, practicing without fear of failure, and experimenting with little bets to find the one that will make a difference.
“The important thing about little bets is that they’re bite-sized. You try one. It takes a few months at most. It either succeeds or fails, but either way you get important feedback to guide your next steps. This approach stands in contrast to the idea of choosing a bold plan and making one big bet on its success” – Cal Newport
Thinking big without experimenting will keep your ideas at a dream level. Jolt them to life by seeing them in action.
5. Intelligence is not everything; attitude counts
Intelligence is important, but it’s not everything. What matters more is how you put your knowledge to use, what steps you take to learn new information, and how you expand your circle of competence.
Not having enough intelligence could be an excuse to not think big, stop trying, and give up too soon. But, really, it’s the attitude that counts more than intelligence.
“What really matters is not how much intelligence you have but how you use what you do have. The thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than the quantity of your brainpower” – David J. Schwartz
You may have all the brains in the world and still do nothing about it. Most successful people around you are not the most brainy people, they are the people who consciously engage in a positive attitude towards life.
6. Others can pull you down; don’t let them
It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity from people around you – your idea is not that great, it won’t work, why are you wasting your time, go do something else instead.
I am not suggesting that you hide from the reality of your situation or completely ignore the advice even when there’s some truth to it. Chew over it, put things into perspective, but then decide for yourself.
Once you have made a decision to move forward, don’t let negative energy from others suck up into your drive to do great work.
People will continue to bother. Instead of blaming them for what they think, take responsibility to ignore them if that’s what you need to do to move forward. Thinking big involves prioritizing what matters by removing the obstacles along the way.
7. Network is power; utilize it
There’s so much to learn from people within our network. Instead of starting from scratch, expand your thinking by reaching out to people and learn how they have done it in the past, what did they do to get past failures, how do they see your vision and what would they advise.
“I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have ever figured out. I don’t believe in just sitting down and trying to dream it all up yourself. Nobody’s that smart.” – Charlie Munger
People in the network not only inspire, but they can also influence your thinking, guide you along the way, and maybe, just maybe if your idea connects with them personally, they can be your biggest brand ambassadors helping you spread the word.
8. Adapt, then correct
A big part of being successful is the ability to measure progress, get feedback on the process, identify failure points, determine where adjustments in the plan need to be made, and rapidly correct errors through adaptation.
Thinking big needs to spring into action to welcome change as a way of doing things instead of resisting it. Without the mindset to improve, as you move along, you may be stuck with doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
Being in the driver’s seat as you learn to drive a car may be exciting, but the traffic on the road can slow you down, some rash drivers may scare the hell out of you and you may even have to change your original route if you wish to reach your destination.
There will be plenty of reasons to give up driving and many more to keep going. In the end, how you utilize the power of thinking big to make your journey more rewarding is up to you.
Also published here.
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