When I was in high school, my dad paid me $20 to read The Power of Positive Thinking. It’s the only book he ever paid me to read. By the time I closed the back cover, I was addicted to motivational literature. Since then, I’ve continued to study motivations and dreams. The more I read, the more I realize—if we think small, we achieve small.
Thinking small is natural. Over time, leaders lose the ability to dream. We become risk-averse and sacrifice goals. That’s why I love motivational reading material. It reveals where I might be standing in my own way.
When we recognize the limits of thinking small, we can re-train ourselves to think big. To start thinking big today, you’ll need to follow three effective steps.
Step 1. Imagine the possibilities.
Give yourself permission to dream. This may involve suspending disbelief. Most people build a habit of objecting to goals before they even take root. Instead of thinking, “What if I fail?” think “What if I succeed?”
Dan Sullivan says entrepreneurs first achieve success because of their willingness to dream and take risks. However, once they realize initial success, many quit taking risks. Inevitably, these entrepreneurs fail.
Leaders imagine possibilities and keep reimagining what’s possible beyond each accomplishment.
Step 2. Write down your dream.
As I often say, thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips. To give yourself a real opportunity to pursue your dream, clarify what you want. There’s something about writing that brings this clarity.
This isn’t limited to work life. When I was in college, my pastor urged me to make a list of qualities I was seeking in a spouse. I wasn’t even close to being in a relationship at the time. I made the list, and it helped me recognize Gail when she showed up.
Step 3. Connect what’s at stake.
Get clear about your why. Many people skip over this step. That’s a mistake. Knowing what’s at stake will keep you fueled up on the road to accomplishment.
I’ll share an example. A few years ago, my team made a goal to help fund the construction of a school in Kenya. Instead of simply focusing on the financial number, we needed to get to the heart of the dream. In this case, kids would not get an education if we gave up on our goal. That’s what was at stake. This drove us to keep moving until we reached our funding goal.
Now that you know the first three steps to thinking big, you can get out of your goal’s way.
Thinking big is a learnable skill. Your community can either grow or shrink your thinking. As you develop this skill, get deliberate about who you hang out with. Encourage one another to voice your wildest dreams and celebrate wins together.
Starting to think big is hard. Continuing to think big is even harder.