It happens to all of us: You wake up, have your coffee, take a shower, – and suddenly, you have an epiphany. You think it’s a real game-changer – that it will lift you out of your drab or uninspired lull and into a world of opportunity. You think you should tell everyone you know about how you intend to overhaul the personal counseling industry, write a New York Times best seller, or start an urban farming collective in New Mexico.
In your head, you simply can’t fail.
Years ago, I made the jump from working for someone else to becoming a business owner. It has been the best thing I’ve done in my life. However, before you change your LinkedIn job title, quit your job, and throw a party, you need to take a step back and breathe. Write your idea down somewhere and put it away. Sleep on it, and continue your life as it always was. After some time passes, reread your idea and decide whether or not you still want to go through with it.
Make Sure You Love What Reaching This Goal Will Involve
If you have a big goal or dream that will impact a certain industry (e.g., writing a book, selling your fashion designs on Etsy, starting a new technology company), it’s safe to assume that you have some experience in or passion for 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 of this new venture, you should keep asking yourself if you’re willing to love it this much – if, for example, you love it enough to start learning unrelated skills (like light programming, finances, editing, and social media) just to make it work.
People are more motivated and accomplish more when they love what they’re doing, so make sure this is worth it for you.
Visualize Your End Goal With as Much Detail as You Can
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 this company that you are willing into existence? Take a moment to indulge in your fantasy. Visualize your end goal in rich detail. The more clearly you can see what success looks like for you, the more attainable your goals will be.
Our minds are often swimming in negative thoughts of. We doubt our credentials or our ability to achieve what we want. We compare ourselves to others and feel like their accomplishments will always overshadow our own. In these moments, I have to remind myself of the victories I can taste and fill my heart with the positivity I was full of when I started.
Research, Plot a Strategy, and Break It All Down Into Actionable Steps
Try to get a better idea of what’s ahead. Look for people who have pulled off similar projects or started similar companies, talk to professionals in the space, and map out what it would mean for you to get to where you want to go. This means researching a variety of different fields, like business and finance or search engine marketing. When you have an idea of what reaching your goal entails, break down your strategy into small, actionable steps.
For example, your strategy might be something like:
- Knit a small collection of sweaters.
- Hold a photo shoot.
- Set up an Etsy shop.
- Make a blog.
- Map out a story outline with a list of characters.
- Write character backgrounds.
- Write for three hours a day.
- Do a market study of the product you’re thinking of launching.
- Work a ton of overtime to save capital.
- Look into grants.
Reorganize Your Routine or (Start One)
The most important part of realizing your dream is doing 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 for tackling it, you have to work at it every day. This could mean getting up a few hours earlier to write a few chapters every day or dedicating time after work to building out your social media presence, for example.
It’s important to stop framing your goal as a “dream project” or “an idea.” Once you have decided to go through with your dream, it stops being dream and becomes a real responsibility that you owe yourself.
Get Into a Growth Mindset
If you believe that your big idea is an opportunity to learn more and improve your skills, you will be more motivated to continue reaching above and beyond what you had set out to do. People who believe that intelligence and skill levels are fixed quantities 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.
It is dangerous to say, “I’m not an organized person,” because it assumes you are incapable of getting your life in order. Similarly, saying “I’ve always been an introvert” implies that introverts can’t, or shouldn’t, try to challenge themselves socially.
Recognize 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 much greater potential for growth and success with your next big idea.
A version of this article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.
John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free online invoicing company specializing in helping businesses bill their clients easily online. You can connect with him on Twitter: @johnrampton.