It happens to all of us. We wake up and have a first cup of coffee and a shower, and suddenly, we have an epiphany. We think it’s a real game-changer — that it will lift us out of our drab or uninspired lull and into a world of opportunity.
We think we should tell everyone we know about how we intend to overhaul the personal counseling industry, write a New York Times bestseller or relocate our life and start an urban farming collective in New Mexico. And in our head, we can’t fail.
Years ago, I made a jump from working for someone to becoming a business owner. It’s been the best thing I’ve done in my life. However, before you change your LinkedIn job title, quit your job and hold celebrations, take a step back and breathe.
Write the idea down somewhere and put it away. Sleep on it, and continue your life as it always was. After some time passes, re-read your idea again and see if you still want to go through with it.
Love What the Goal Entails
It’s not enough to be passionate about your idea, you’ll need to love what it takes to accomplish it.
If you have a big goal or dream that will add some impact to a certain industry (e.g. writing a book, selling your designs, starting a new technology company, etc.), it’s safe to assume you have some experience or passion invested in the activity itself. If the ultimate goal is to do what you love, you should really, really love what you’re about to do enough to take it to the next level.
In the beginning, keep asking yourself if you’re willing to love it this much — if you love it enough to start learning other unrelated skills (e.g., light programming, juggling finances, editing, social media, etc.). People are motivated and accomplish more when they love what they’re doing, so make sure that doing what the goal requires is worth it for you.
Visualize Your End Goal
Do you know what realizing your dream looks like? Can you see yourself on that podium, collecting your trophy? Do you know what your acceptance speech would sound like? Can you taste the celebration dinner when you finally go public with the company you are willing into existence?
Take a moment and indulge your imagination. Visualize your end goal in rich detail. The clearer you can see what success looks like for you, the more attainable your goals will be.
Our minds are often swimming in negative and unproductive thoughts, like “I have no place trying to pull this off” or “I’m too small and the idea is too big.” Constant comparisons to other people of long days and struggle can easily make you feel defeated. In these moments, I remind myself of the victories I can taste and fill my heart with positive thoughts that I was full of when I first started.
Create Actionable Steps
Try to get a better idea of what’s ahead. Look for people who have pulled off similar projects or companies, talk to professionals or simply map out what it would mean for you to get where you want to go.
This requires detail. It means researching a variety of different fields, like business and marketing strategies. When you have an idea of what your goal entails, break down your strategy in small, actionable steps.
For example, if you’re launching a sweater shop, then:
Knit a small collection of sweaters.
Schedule a photo shoot.
Set up an Etsy shop.
Create a blog.
If you’re writing a book, then:
Map out a story outline with a list of characters.
Create character backgrounds.
Write for three hours a day.
If you’re inventing a new product, and working full-time then:
Do a market study and work on the prototype.
Contact a Patent attorney.
Work overtime or cut back on expenses to save capital.
Reorganize and Retool Your Routine
The most important part of realizing your dream is to do the work. There is no successful person out there who hasn’t done the work in some way or another. If you’re serious about your goal and you have a strategy to tackle it, you have to work at it every single day.
Whether it means getting up a few hours earlier to get a few chapters in or dedicating time after work (or after putting your children to sleep) to dive into your goals, it’s important to stop framing them as a “dream project” or “an idea.”
Once you have decided to go through with your dream, it stops becoming a dream and starts to become work — a real responsibility you owe to yourself.
Get Into a Growth Mindset
If you believe your big idea is an opportunity to learn more and improve your skills, you will be more motivated to continue reaching above and beyond your initial goal.
People who believe that intelligence and skill level is a fixed quantity tend to give up and use their lack of aptitude or intelligence as an excuse not to continue. However, those who adopt a growth mindset are more likely to keep traveling down the path to success.
They believe that every goal, every challenge, every obstacle is an opportunity to learn and improve personal growth. It is dangerous to say, “I’m not an organized person,” because it assumes you are incapable of getting your life in order. It’s equally as unproductive to say, “I’ve always been an introvert,” as it implies that introverts can’t, or shouldn’t, try to challenge themselves socially.
Realize your challenges and setbacks now and know that there will always be challenges and setbacks — but that you can handle these problems. Then you can say to yourself, “I can overcome this and learn from it,” and you’ll have a much greater potential for growth and success with your next big idea.
This article has been edited and condensed.
John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free online invoicing company specializing in helping businesses bill their client easily online. Connect with @johnrampton on Twitter.
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