You’ve been dreaming of doing that thing for a while now. You want to do something big: write a book, change careers, launch a business, share a message, become a speaker, make art, move to a new city, train for a marathon, or whatever it is your heart is calling you to accomplish.
I’ve been right where you are. Heck, I am right where you are, nearly every day of my life. Life is a perpetual quest, isn’t it? It’s a constant balance between being present and moving forward, between feeling gratitude for what we have and working diligently toward achieving our dreams.
That’s the kind of life I want to live, and because you’re reading this, I bet that’s the kind of life you want to live, too.
Over the years, I’ve developed a process for gaining clarity of vision, creating a plan, taking action, and continuing to grow. If you’re ready to make a big move in work or life, here are five questions to ask yourself.
1. What do I want?
Clarity of vision is perhaps the biggest driver toward helping you achieve the next big thing. Your vision for your life should be so crystal clear you can describe it in detail. It should be palpable. You should be able to close your eyes and experience your future reality with such clarity that it’s like you’ve already achieved it.
To do this, I suggest sitting down and writing. Spend time describing yourself one year, three years, and five years from now. (If you want to dream really big, add ten years, too.) Start with an anchoring statement: “In 2018, I’ll be __ years old.” Then, write about your future. Use personal pronouns like “I” and “my,” and verbs like “am” rather than “will.” Get really specific about your life, describing it as though it’s happening.
Spending the time to understand what you want sets a foundation to make it happen.
2. What is my plan?
Understanding what you want—the vision for your life—is necessary. But then you need to understand how you’ll make it happen. Taking your one-year vision, and considering the future realities you’ve described, spend time generating a strategic plan detailing the main steps that need to happen.
For example, if your goal in one year is to write a book, you can break down the key milestones: write draft, determine publishing route, create author platform (website and social media), hire marketer. Then, within each milestone, break down the tactical steps you need to complete to make your milestone happen. “Write draft,” for example, can be further broken down: create outline, write first draft, complete editorial review, revise second draft, editing, revise third draft, proofreading. Within each of those steps, then, are action items you need to complete. For example, if you’ve never outlined a book before, seeking out education is a must. You also need to find and hire an editor and proofreaders.
From there, you can assign dates to your plan. I use Asana project management software (free for single users and small teams!) for planning and accountability.
Seems overkill? It’s not. Planning is the only way I’ve found to actually make things happen. (If you know another way, let me know in the comments. I’d love to read about your method.)
Of note: your plan doesn’t have to be all-encompassing, and it shouldn’t take the place of action. Take an afternoon or three to put together the plan, and then act and adjust as you go.
3. What happens if I fail?
Fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons people never try. It can be crippling. It can keep you up at night.
To help, walk yourself through the absolute worst case scenario. Then, consider what you’d do if it happened. I’ve done this a lot lately as we plan our long-term travel to Thailand. To me, the absolute worst case scenario—putting aside safety, which is a risk anywhere in the world—is that we hate it.
What would happen if our experiment failed? Well, we’d come home. We’d spend a bunch of money on plane tickets, but at the end of the day, is that really a big deal? Is it worth not trying? Not to me.
What about you? If you finally quit your job (with savings in the bank!), and failed, what’s the worst thing that could happen, and what would you do about it? If you want to write a book, become a speaker, create a website to share your message, or train for that crazy physical feat, what’s the worst that could happen, and what would you do about it?
When we face our fears head on, when we understand and plan for them, they can’t control us anymore.
4. What happens if I succeed?
The idea of success can be even more fear-inducing than the idea of failing. There are two reasons for this: 1) most of us haven’t taken the time to clarify a life vision and really understand what success looks like for us. And 2) succeeding and then potentially failing feels scarier than just plain ole failing.
If we never scale the heights, we won’t have as far to fall, right? Banish that thinking. Instead, consider this:
What would it be like to live completely engaged, moving full-on in the direction of your deepest desires?
What would it feel like to finally, finally achieve the thing you desire most of all?
How would your life shift if you accomplish that goal?
What would the impact of success be on those around you—your family, friends, and the people out there in the world who need your gift?
Success is a result of clarity, heart, work, and grit. And you’ll only achieve that big thing if you let yourself try.
5. Why wait?
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with incredible people all over the world who are dreaming big dreams and taking the first steps toward making them happen (often by contacting me). But in a good portion of those conversations, here’s what happens:
They put it off.
There are endless reasons to postpone that big goal. Time, money, lack of clarity, lack of direction, timing. Some reasons are valid; others aren’t. I encourage you to weigh the opportunity cost of waiting. The thing you want to do is probably going to feel hard and overwhelming and challenging, but that’s exactly why it’s a big thing.
One way to objectively assess whether you have the space to take on a new endeavor is by recording your week. Write down every activity for seven days. At the end, step back and assess. Identify your free time and determine what you could give up for a short period to make your big goal happen. Most of us can make the space to shift our lives.
My hope is that you’ll take steps toward making your next big move happen. With these questions answered, I hope you’ll have new confidence to stop waiting and start acting.
What’s the “big move” in your life or work? What has been holding you back? What has been propelling you forward? Please share in the comments.