Over the years, I have been asked this question many times. It always evoked strong feelings – especially of defensiveness.
To my pleasant surprise, I discovered this week that I’m able to answer this question WITHOUT dismay, disappointment or disingenuity – because of an evolution of my goals, dreams and plans.
As a keen student of psychology, I’ve been aware for long that whenever a question, comment or accusation makes you feel deeply disturbed, uncomfortable or gets you into ‘defensive mode’, it’s because you know in your heart that it touches a nerve, exposes a weakness, hits too close to the truth.
You may quibble and argue, obfuscate and reiterate, posture and pretend – but you know you aren’t fooling yourself… not really!
So it was, when people I know well and who care about my work and purpose, asked me the question:
“Why are you setting such modest goals? With your talent, skill and experience, you could succeed in a much bigger way? ARE YOU TOO SCARED?”
In hindsight, looking back on how my answer to the question has evolved over years, I learned a valuable lesson – one you might find helpful too.
A decade before…
10 years back, I had a dream. It was vague, unfocussed, uncertain. It was to help children born with congenital heart disease who came from poor families to find a way to afford treatment.
I didn’t know if it had a chance of ever coming true. Yet, I started working to make it happen.
Because of the lack of conviction, the absence of any proof of concept, the paucity of evidence of my capability to make this work, I dreamed SMALL.
Yet tried to convince myself that’s all I could afford to do.
And then five years later…
5 years later, with some early success to boost my confidence, the dream became more ‘believable’ – and so I started setting goals. They were big goals, maybe even overly ambitious – but more critically dangerous, they were not well planned or organized.
I wanted to help ‘many children’ and ‘raise a lot of money’ to make it possible ‘very quickly’ – all by myself.
Spurred by my initial success, and fuelled by a growing experience with working online and a steadily increasing exposure in the marketplace I was involved in, the results of my efforts grew – but again, under-performed my ‘goals’, because those goals were unclear.
Coming to today…
More recently, the goals became clear, specific, organized. That came from rethinking everything I was doing. Working out a sequential, incrementally improving plan, with interim targets and processes that build on each other.
I now have a more definite target – X operations per year, funded within a clear time frame. I have identified other approaches that will synergize with the primary goal, speed its accomplishment, and make it scalable so the impact grows over time.
From this clarity in goal setting and blueprinting my plans to reach each target, one surprising thing emerged – I did NOT need as much money, and did NOT need to do some things I had planned to in the earlier phases of my development.
Best of all, I now understood that my ‘plan’ does NOT need to be as ‘big’, ‘ambitious’, or ‘fast’ as others I had been obsessing over (and feeling frustrated at not being able to match).
Someone else may want to gain thousands of customers, make hundreds of sales, and bank millions of dollars.
My plan, in its present iteration, can happen at the pace I’m setting – and still achieve the desired end result within the target time frame… and scale higher when I hit these targets!
And surprise, surprise… if the plan speeds up and gathers momentum faster than I foresee, it may help reach my ultimate goals faster – but not a lot faster!
That’s the REAL reason the question no longer makes me anxious.
When someone asks me now:
“Are You Too SCARED To Dream BIG?”
I can confidently answer –
“No, I’ve just realized it is NOT necessary to dream bigger than I am doing right now.”
Is this a dead-end?
Absolutely not. Once I hit the current targets, the growth to a higher level is already built-in to the plan. And my ‘big dream’ target is so ambitious, I’m even afraid to mention it to anyone, in public (or even in private) – yet my current plan has even this target factored into the future!
How does this rambling post help YOU?
For your own business or life, ask yourself the same hard questions.
Do you really need to dream bigger than you are?
Or is the perceived ‘smallness’ of your dreams more a function of someone else’s expectations of you, rather than the need for bigger dreams to achieve your goals?
The answer you’ll arrive at may surprise you.
At the very least, it will comfort you.