Why you should think BIG (and why you shouldn’t)

think big

“Think BIG!” It’s a message we often hear from personal development types like yours truly. But should you listen?

The other day I went on a mini-rant about how the personal growth message so often lands as, “You’re not enough. You need to change.” Self-help can be just another form of consumerism, where a hole is identified that you need to fill.

The post was sparked by someone tweeting about the need to “think big,” to really aim high and achieve something big in your life.

So should you listen to the think-big message? As with so many things, the answer is, “Weeeell…it depends.”

What’s your motivation?

To be clear, I’m actually a huge fan of thinking big. The trouble comes when the motivation for it gets muddy.

Boiled down to its simplest form, that motivation can come from two places. It can either be a door to a fuller expression of yourself and your potential, or a way to fill in a perceived hole of not-enoughness.

Motivation is everything. Even if you get the same end result, how you feel along the way is completely different.

With one, every step is part of the adventure. Every step is valued and enjoyed, or at least learned from.

With the other, there is an underlying sense of, “I’ll be OK when _____. I’ll be enough when ____.” Except you won’t. With a hole-filling motivation, no amount of reaching your goals will permanently fill that hole. It will always creep back, like a sinkhole opening up beneath your life.

So should you think big? Sure! But be really aware of your motivation. Is it because you don’t feel like you’re enough, or because you feel like you’re currently playing smaller than you truly are?

Why should you think big?

So let’s assume that you have dug into your motivation and decided that, while there might be a little “I’ll be enough when ____,” it’s mostly a way to step into a fuller expression of who you are and what you have to offer.

What are the benefits of thinking (and acting) big? Here are just a few.

It stretches you. When you think big and aim high, you can’t muddle along in your standard comfort zone kind of way. It requires you to reach beyond your present knowledge, capabilities, even your current beliefs.

It expands your sphere of possibility. When you stretch yourself, when you reach beyond what’s immediately within reach, a funny thing happens. The sphere of what you see as possible expands.

It expands the impact you can make. If making a difference is something you feel called to (not something you feel like you “should” do), this is potentially the biggest reason to think big.

It energizes you. Pushing yourself out past where you’ve ever been can be scary, but it can also be energizing. And it definitely keeps things from getting stale and stagnant.

It stimulates growth. Growth happens beyond the comfort zone. And when you think big, that’s where you spend a lot of your time.

It opens doors. When you pursue a big path, you take action you wouldn’t otherwise have taken. And that opens doors you never would have known were there.

It builds confidence. Succeeding outside your comfort zone builds belief both in your abilities and in the potential to do even more.

Make sure it’s your big

One final caveat – if you’re going to think big, make sure it’s your big. Just because your entrepreneur friend is over-the-moon inspired by building a company and scaling it into something huge doesn’t mean that has any relevance to you.

Your big might be to have a long-lasting, deep impact on people you spend time with face-to-face. Or it might be diving deep into a spiritual path that has none of the traditional think-big trappings of external accomplishment and achievement.

Just remember, the path to the fullest expression of who you are and what you can do never leads through anyone else’s big.

So should you think big? And should you take action on thinking big? Yes! Yes! Yes! But if you do, be sure it’s a path to a fuller expression of who you are, not just a way to shovel more loads of temporary enoughness into that hole.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Take the first step with my FREE audio course.]


Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

How to maximize your Failure ROI


Let’s face it. At some point, despite your best efforts, you’re going to go splat. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to flop and fall on your face. That’s especially true if you aim high and reach beyond your comfort zone.

The occasional failure is an inevitable part of the road to success. And unpleasant as it is, failure is also – potentially, at least – one of our best teachers. So if you’re going to fail anyway, doesn’t it make sense to squeeze all the value out of that investment that you can?

Here are some questions to help you maximize your “Failure ROI.” (ROI = Return On Investment)

What role did I play in this failure? What role did circumstances beyond my control play?

Taking ownership for your own part in the process and letting go of responsibility for what you had no control over lets you focus on what you actually had the power to impact.

What were the causes of this failure?

Trace the failure back. What were the pieces of the puzzle that contributed to your belly flop? See if you can find the root causes, the underlying sources that contributed to that failure. Challenge yourself to go deeper than your initial assessment. Keep asking, “and why did that happen?” as you peel back the layers.

What might have prevented this failure?

Can you identify specific steps, preparations, support, etc. that would have led to a more favorable outcome?

What would I do differently if I did this again?

Trace the whole process from beginning to end. What would you do differently? Why?

Was the cause of the failure a flawed idea, or flawed execution? A bad concept, or a poorly planned process?

They both might lead to failure, but the reasons behind each of them are vastly different. Make sure you’re focusing on the right thing.

What did I need to know that I didn’t know I needed to know?

Looking at your attempt from beginning to end, where did it begin to go wrong? How? Was there more than one point where it deviated from the path to success? For each of those points, what could have been done differently to stay on track?

What support did I need that I didn’t have? Where could I get that support in the future?

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. It’s a lot easier to see where you didn’t have a clue or were woefully underprepared when you look back than it was along the way. What support did you need that would have contributed to your success (e.g., a subject matter expert with more knowledge than you, a partner whose gifts and talents complement yours, etc.)?

What knowledge did I need that I didn’t have? Where could I find that knowledge in the future?

Sometimes failure comes because you don’t know what you don’t know. With the benefit of hindsight, what knowledge were you lacking that contributed to the lack of success?

What action should I have taken that I didn’t?

Can you see steps left undone, initiatives left uninitiated?

What action shouldn’t I have taken that I did?

On the flipside, are there things you set in motion that contributed to your failure?

What do I understand now as a result of this failure that I can put to use in the future?

Odds are good you have a better understanding – of the obstacles, of the system as a whole, of what works and what doesn’t, etc. – than before you started down the path you failed on. What do you understand better?

What are the key learnings I can take away from this failure?

Distilling what you have learned into these key nuggets turns your learning into easily applicable insights for the future.

Parting thought: Keep a failure journal

You might want to get on friendly enough terms with failure that you keep a failure journal. Make it a habit to debrief and learn from the bits of your career (and your life) where things go sideways. You could wind up creating one of the most valuable resources you’ll ever have.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Download my FREE audio course and let the adventure begin!]


Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

The Wild About Work ecosystem

I’ve been thinking about how to visually convey the Wild About Work ecosystem that’s at the heart of what I’ll be talking about in this blog. I went to the whiteboard and this is the model that popped out of my brain.

[Note: There’s a refined version of this model at the Wild About Work Basics link.]

Wild About Work pyramid med

There are four main components to the model. Getting Wild About Work entails:

  • Doing work that energizes you.
  • Bringing your heart to work.
  • Creating a stable foundation of well-being to stand on
  • Recognizing that work and life are interconnected

All of the areas outlined in yesterday’s post about where this blog is headed are encompassed in these four things.

Doing work that energizes you: This is about doing work that lights you up. It includes finding a sense of meaning. It encompasses energy management – maximizing the gains and minimizing the drains. It contains the success factors that help you create it, and the work you do to navigate around the obstacles in your way.

Bringing your heart to work: This is as much attitude as it is action. It’s about love and compassion, both for yourself and for others. It’s openness and a willingness to connect. It’s what brings your full humanity into the picture.

Creating a stable foundation of well-being: There are some things that are woven into the fabric of your well-being. When your life incorporates them, it helps create a solid foundation to stand on. When they’re missing, things start to get a bit wobbly. These are a healthy diet, staying well-hydrated, grounding practice of some sort, exercise, and sleep.

Life/Work interconnection: Your work life doesn’t exist in a silo. What happens in each part of your life has an impact on how you experience the others.  The more energized you are in 360 degrees, the more space you will have to experience all the juice your job has to offer.

[Want to get Wild About Work? Get started today with my FREE Audio Course!]


Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

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