Thinking big is an idea greatly promoted by motivation industry. Have you heard the advice “go big or go home!”? That’s the point, according to them if we’re not thinking big, we’re wasting our time and effort.
But what if “go home” sounds like a very appealing option? Me too, I tried to aim for bigger goals, tried to distort and cripple my true dreams and almost succeeded. And finally, I decided to “go home”.
In this article, I will share my experience as an example why thinking big is not always a good option, and explain how should we think instead.
Experience of thinking big
In my career, I was surrounded by people aiming at big and even bigger things, but every time I got to my job I was thinking about going back home instead of going big. I felt a bit guilty that I do not dream about the highest positions in the company. Actually, those positions even scared me a bit. I thought – if I’m successful in my job, one day I must be a CFO? No way! I was too satisfied with the position I was in and had no intention of making a further career.
But since I was an honest and hard-working employee everyone around me were pulling me up. Of course, they were sure to be helping me to achieve bigger goals. But my actual goals were writing a book, traveling, creating music, developing drawing skills, not a certain position on the corporate ladder. Too bad, those were not big goals enough, so, no one treated them seriously.
Small dream? Forget it! Think about something bigger!
To achieve big goals or make a big career (especially in finance) one must spend lots of time on it, so other, smaller things start dying away like undernourished plants due to lack of attention to them. Finally, I decided to abandon the big goal that is not mine and quit.
But the story does not end here. When someone quits the job, then they usually start traveling the world like crazy. Me too, I decided to fulfill my biggest dream of the life – to go traveling. I took my time to analyze options where, how and when (I like planning). And suddenly that feeling struck me again: my travel plans were not big enough!
I have read about a guy who walked on foot across China. I have read about a couple who cycled across Americas. I have read about a guy who runs a business while traveling for years. And me just: one summer month on a bicycle driving across Europe? Not during winter? Not 3 years? Not the whole world?
What a wrong dream to pursue!
But how glad I am now that I achieved this dream, which became one of the biggest inspirations in my life. I always come back to it in my mind when I need to find strength and inspiration to carry on. That one month on a bicycle was even better than my later experiences: several months with Couchsurfing or being a digital nomad. Bigger is not always better.
And now this blog. Instead of writing motivational articles to people who spend money easily I am ridiculing the motivation industry for introverts – masters of critical thinking, reluctant to buy shiny things (unless they resemble cats). And I believe this is the right decision because there are two problems with thinking big.
Two problems with thinking big
First of all, this “think big” thing interferes with inner values so often. I believed in service that I was doing for my company, I saw value and fulfillment in that. To go big, meant to become a manager and finally a CFO. That’s a very different kind of job to do. Not what I was meant to do.
The same with travels – I believed that travel is just a bit of fun, and people who dedicate their whole life for traveling never impressed me. I believe in creating value for others, and constant wandering through one cool experience after another seemed like a waste of life. Why go big in this field?
The next thing is priorities. There are so many areas in our life! Maybe it’s not that bad to go big in one of them, but choosing the right one is the question that matters. If we hurry to go big in the area that does not matter to us, but matters to others, then others will be happy. But not us.
Should we go small then? Should we go home?
How to think instead?
“Go big or go home!” implied that I am supposed either to distort my dream with additional ambition, to ruin an initial idea with an unnecessary spice of greed and pride, either to forget it.
According to Buddhist and Tao philosophies, “The Middle Path”, or constant balance between the extremities of life is usually the answer. Between the idleness of being at home and exhaustive struggle of going big. According to those philosophies, one must be as big as it is supposed to be. Not bigger, not smaller.
Going smaller is a waste of potential, a waste of creative energy. Going bigger is the distortion of the idea and a trigger for unwelcome emotions. Emotions like anxiety, which comes from disbelief that the big goal is actually achievable. If I believe it is too big for me, how can I enjoy pursuing it? Emotions like disappointment, when big goals are failing. Am I supposed to have a big goal in every aspect of my life? And achieve them all? How? And why?
People reading it might say, that with this mindset I will never achieve anything in my life. That’s against reason. I will just not achieve anything big because I don’t want to. I will achieve many things that I want, that fulfill me, things that I see as meaningful.
Like the travel thing. I did my one month trip with a bicycle and absolutely enjoyed it. After it, I realized what I want to do next with my life and what kind of career do I want. And what if I distorted this small travel adventure artificially inflating it and making it bigger? I would spend a year cycling around the globe to impress people I don’t know when all what I actually needed was a simple retreat to stay alone with my thoughts.
What would happen if I would pursue a big career in my previous company? I’d miss other opportunities that were waiting for me.
Life is like stairs. If I have a simple dream I will pursue it as it is. If it’s simple, let it be simple if it’s small, let it be small. This dream will let me climb the next step. And those steps will naturally become bigger and bigger, no need to raise them artificially.
The advice to go big or to go home is right, but we must understand, that going home is an option too. And a very good option. What must be big is the heart. We must pour our full heart in everything we do. I’d say:
Go with a big heart, or go with small, but never go without it.