7 tips to help you think big and realize your dreams
"Why limit yourself?" The old man looked at me unwaveringly. He was a client I'd helped hypnotically control his blood pressure. He had shown a great deal of interest in my therapy business. "Think big, Mark! Why only see eight people a week when you can teach one hundred, a thousand others to do what you do who could, in turn, each see eight troubled souls a week? 8,000 people a week!"
I will never forget that conversation. It was the seed that germinated into flowering possibility and action. Fifteen years on, and my business partner and I have trained thousands face-to-face and reached millions online.
"Whatever you dream or believe you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it," as I believe someone once said. But…
What does it really mean to think big?
If you have something valuable in mind, a service to offer, an idea to develop, or even your own raw talent to use, then you owe it to yourself – and to others – to increase its scope. Why settle for anything less than the full potential of what you can do with it?
But, as I discovered, thinking big needs:
- Vision. To think big, you need to see big.
- Courage. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- Thick skin. If what you have in mind is at all worth doing, then others will express doubts about it along the way.
The fact is, when you have a strong enough vision, the courage takes care of itself. When you can see, hear, and feel your vision, then you simply have to pursue it, however crazy it might seem to others.
If you suspect you've been thinking too small, here are seven tips to help you think bigger.
1) Remember everything starts small
Rome wasn't built in a day; in fact, it started as a few hillside hamlets. Actually, the whole human race was once half a dozen scattered tribes in Africa. Microsoft began as a backroom business. Richard Branson started his empire using a public phone box as his office.
Everything starts out small. If we are to believe the astrophysicists, then everything around us – the whole Universe – originated from a form smaller than you can possibly imagine. So it doesn't matter where you are at present because from small beginnings come great things.
2) Think bigger by enlisting others
Okay, Rome wasn't built in a day; neither was it built by just one person. The biggest thinkers get other people to dream their dreams and enact their plans for them.
Thinking big means taking yourself out of the picture, at least to some extent. Trying to do everything on your own will keep things small.
Not every home computer was sold over the counter by Bill Gates. Henry Ford certainly didn't make and sell all his own cars personally. And J.K. Rowling didn't publicise, print, and bind the 400 million plus Harry Potter books that have sold.
To think big, you need to see yourself as a small part of a greater whole. Enlist people who are better than you at certain aspects of what you are developing. If you're not the most organized person, don't just lament the fact; find someone who is über-methodical.
Big thinkers know their personal limitations. Gather people around you who can do what you can't to ensure your dream grows.
3) Think big by focussing on future regrets
Every day I think about the words of the writer Sydney Smith:
"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort."
It's a cliché to say: "We regret not the things we did do, but the things we didn't." But unless you see how far you can take something, you'll never know how far it could have gone. You'll always be wondering.
If you have big plans (or even not so big ones), just close your eyes – right now. Yes, right now! And strongly imagine not having even tried; never even having attempted properly and looking back in ten years' time and wondering: "What if…"
4) Feel it your human duty to think big
When something is potentially a real service to mankind, then it is a human duty to think and act big. I'm thinking mass immunization, clean drinking water, and decent education. But even if what you have to offer isn't Nobel Peace Prize material, it still pays to think big. When I started out as a hypnotherapist, I worked locally with people. Now, with my various websites, I find I can help people with anxiety, depression, and other difficulties all over the world. If local people appreciate what you do, then it's likely you'll have an international audience, too. This leads naturally to…
5) Now, more than ever, is big-thinking time
Mass communication and the huge proliferation of internet use over the last decade means that a global market or audience has never been easier. Now it's natural to think globally rather than just locally. The internet is made to facilitate big thinking. Whatever you are aiming at, the effects can be magnified and reproduced worldwide. So the question is: "Why on Earth not think big?" But thinking big is also a habit you can develop:
6) Create big thoughts
Unless you can clearly conceive great things for your enterprise, you won't get there. Become used to sitting down and envisaging in great detail exactly what your goal is. How your ideas will look, sound, and feel once they are realized. How will lives be changed? What will people say about your global phenomena? What will you be doing day-to-day and how will it all hang together? Who will be working on it? What exactly will they be doing? Roger Elliott, his wife Lyndsay Swinton, and I sat down before we began our business and planned out exactly how we wanted it to look in one year, five years, and beyond. We linked fantasy to practical goal planning, and all I can say is that we under-estimated how far we could take our business.
So to really get things moving, do the following exercise…
7) Use the "time machine exercise"
A warning: There is a danger of getting so taken up with fantasies of success that by the time it actually comes to taking the first steps, all the momentum is lost. If you spend hours strongly imagining having won the lottery, eventually the thought of actually having to go buy your ticket seems almost mundane.
So visualize all the steps needed to complete your dreams. You can do this exercise with another person.
- Make believe you have reached the stage where your dream has "gone big." (Or let me help you with this part by clicking on the free audio below)
- Now get the other person to question you as to how exactly you arrived at where you are now (in make-believe land).
- Your friend needs to be relentless, almost as if trying to catch you out. "What was your very first step to becoming this successful? How did you get the initial money? Who helped you? What are their names? What happened next? What colour is the door of your international office? How much is the rent there?"
- Your job is to be as convincing as possible in your answers. Pretty soon you'll find it start to feel amazingly real to you. Your friend's job is to ask as many practical questions as possible. This links fantasy to practicality in a very powerful way.
- As you reply, get your friend to write down all the steps, put them in chronological order, and number them. He can also ask "negative questions" like: "What was the hardest thing about all this? What have you had to sacrifice?" (TV watching? PlayStation?) But also: "What does it feel like now?" and: "What's the best thing about having realized your dream in this way? Describe your typical day now."
- Now close your eyes whilst your friend talks you slowly through each step that you have drawn up together. Strongly imagine, as if seeing yourself in a movie, completing all the steps that you had envisaged during the "fantasy interrogation." Once you have done this, it will become much more likely that you will begin to actualize the real steps toward creating your ultimate goal, rather than just endlessly fantasizing about life once you've arrived.
Thinking big is one way of fulfilling your potential, but if you're an aspiring Hitler or Genghis Khan, disregard all of the above and go retire in Eastbourne.