I’m a big-picture thinker. So, no surprise, my New Year’s resolutions, my to-do lists, and my goals in general tend to lean toward big and broad. That’s why yesterday’s exercise, in which I named the over-arching words I want to focus on for the different, most prominent “realms” of my life, came so naturally to me.
Of course, as both Kelli at Rancid Raves and Kristen at Motherese so deftly pointed out in their New Year’s posts, broad ideas do not usually, on their own, get you where you want to go. The dreaming, the feeling, the big thoughts…they are all crucial, yes. But without the necessary next phase–breaking down those ideas into steps–they usually just stay ideas, not concrete enough to become reality.
As I see it, there are three obstacles we big-picture thinkers face when it comes to creating specific goals.
- We’re afraid we’ll fail–or look stupid. Here’s an example that us blogging/writing types can identify with: it’s one thing to say “I want to write more” or even “I want to be a writer” because those are so vague they could mean almost anything. You might hesitate at naming a more concrete goal, like “Publish an article in a major magazine” or “Finish a novel” because wow. Those are really specific, really ambitious goals. Somebody might think you’re crazy or a little too big for your britches, setting your sights so high. Especially if you don’t actually accomplish that goal as quickly as you’d hoped.
- We fear missing out. Sometimes we have a specific goal in mind, but can’t bring ourselves to focus on it to the exclusion of other, also-delectable ideas. We’re like idea hoarders, fearing we’ll regret or lack later if we “give away” or abandon or simply postpone a concept or goal. We worry we’ll never have the opportunity to circle back around to those goals or that they might not be available to us later if we still want to pursue them.
- We spin our wheels. For big-picture thinkers, putting together an action plan full of small, specific steps doesn’t come naturally and can lead to a lot of mental white noise and avoidance. It’s not as fun as dreaming, and again, because we’re thinking big, we have a hard time culling down the list of possible tasks to the actual, essential ones.
Say your goal is to “spend more time with your kids.” Sounds great, but what does that mean for you? Maybe you’re a wee bit addicted to the internet, and have been thinking about declaring the time between after-school and bedtime your social-media-free hours….but you’re afraid you’ll miss out on prime Twitter conversation if you do that. Or maybe you dream of taking the whole family on a week-long camping trip every summer, but can’t stop fantasizing about the blissful hiking trips you’ll enjoy together long enough to actually call and reserve a campsite and get the time off of work. Or maybe you’re just afraid that if you set a specific goal–say, a family dinner together 5 nights a week–you might not always manage it and you’ll look like a failure, or your friends will call you an over-achiever or dinner snob or (fill in the blank).
Has fear of missing out, wheel-spinning, or fear of what “they” might think ever kept you from turning Big Ideas into specific, manageable goals–and then acting on them? Tomorrow I’ll share my best tips for starting from “just dreaming” and creating specific, doable action steps. Subscribe to my feed via RSS or email if you want to be sure not to miss it!