How Thinking Too Big Might Get You Stuck

Updated May 24, 2021 by Iulian Ionescu | Read Time min.
thinking too big vision dreams

Did someone ever tell you to think big? Or maybe you’ve read in a blog post or magazine that thinking big is the only way to make it big; that you must first believe and then envision, and the bigger the vision, the more you’ll accomplish? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that for sure, but there’s one tiny, tiny issue. As you think bigger and bigger, there comes the point of inflection where motivation morphs into fear; desire turns into apprehension. There’s a point where the mountain becomes so tall that the mere idea of climbing it no longer looks like a worthy challenge but like an ordeal. That’s when thinking big—a good thing—turns into thinking too big, which might start hurting you. So, what do you do?

“Start small, think big. Don’t worry about too many things at once. Take a handful of simple things, to begin with, and then progress to more complex ones. Think about not just tomorrow, but the future. Put a ding in the universe.”Steve Jobs

Are You Thinking Too Big?

I advocate to everyone about the importance of having a vision for your life. Not only because it represents a beacon that continually shows you the way, but because it fuels your purpose and allows you to create goals and live your life with passion. If you’ve done any vision setting exercise or, perhaps, you have created a vision board already, you know that the main advice is to start with an open mind—the more expansive, the better.

It’s like a brainstorming session with yourself where no idea is a bad idea, and everything goes. That’s the right way to start working on your vision for the best results.

The question then becomes, what kind of person are you, naturally? Are you someone who always thinks big easily, or are you someone who struggles to think big? If you are reading this article, I assume you are the former. You can test yourself with a few simple questions:

  • Do you usually jump into the nitty-gritty details of a problem and begin to chip away at it, or
  • Do you try to figure out a master solution that solves all the problems now and forever?

The latter is what we call big-picture thinkers. You’ll see people like that in the roles of architects, system designers, or complex algorithm builders.

Big picture people love to create big solutions regardless of the size of the problem.

On the one hand, that’s a great thing, but it could be disastrous if that big thinking is not approached properly.

“If you think small, your world will be small. If you think big, your world will be big.”Paulo Coelho

dream big thinking big

Why Thinking Too Small Is Also Bad

The other side of the coin is also problematic. If you are a detail-oriented kind of person who doesn’t have a natural ability to see the big picture, you’ll get bogged down by those minutia details. With that type of approach, you’ll have a hard time creating a lifelong vision because you cannot stretch your mind that far.

That, by the way, has nothing to do with your ambition, discipline, or desire for accomplishment and success. It’s simply a way of thinking that is less conducive to this type of visionary view but doesn’t prevent you from leading a fulfilled and accomplished life.

You accomplish big dreams by taking small steps consistently, and you take those small steps in tiny moves at first. Over time, those steps become bigger as you develop your self-confidence and improve your skills and strengths. But in the beginning, it’s all about small steps.

The problem with only looking at the immediate horizon is that you cannot envision how those small steps stack together in synergy over time. You’ll have lots of small ideas in different areas of your life, and you’ll work on them, perhaps even relentlessly. But without an overview of how they connect, you are doomed to mix priorities.

Eventually, when you are thinking too small, you’ll wind up in a corner. In that corner, you might be fine and dandy, but you’ll only be able to address the world in that corner, sort of speak.

That is why I’m saying that thinking too small is also a fallacy that won’t lead you where you want to go. In fact, between thinking too big and thinking too small, the latter is the dangerous one, while the former is the desirable one, but also the one that will always scare you the most.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

thinking too big dreams

How To Find The Sweet Spot

The culprit in both cases is fear. Yep, that darned fear. You’ll do anything to run away from it, but it somehow finds a way to sneak its tail in your business and mess everything up.

In both cases presented above, fear creeps up to you in different ways and with different results.

When you’re thinking too small, you are afraid to think too big because you believe that doing so might scare you from doing the things you should do. In a way, it’s a sort of preemptive fear.

If you’re thinking too big, now the fear is more real. It’s already there. You’ve taken the steps needed to make a plan; you’ve thought out something to do, and now you’re looking at it, and you’re terrified.

In the former case, you need to keep expanding your ideas and vision and learn how to get out of the comforting visible horizon. You can take any vision-making exercise—and there are plenty. I have one in my free program, Self-Growth Journey, called Creation – Your Vision. No matter what system you use, you need to push your dreams and vision as far and as big as possible until they scare you.

Once you get scared by your own dreams, you have stepped into the latter case above, which puts you right where I want you to be.

“Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small.”Tim Ferriss

believe in yourself

Getting Out of Your Head

Do you know that expression, “living inside your head”? Well, of course, you live inside your head. After all, that’s where all your thoughts, memories, ideas, and feelings reside.

But living inside your head can also be interpreted as allowing your thoughts to define you without taking the time to question them. Your thoughts are a result of your biases, experiences, environment, and values and beliefs.

Those thoughts, however, are not absolute. You must not follow them just because you have them. They are plain wrong more often than not, but you tend to believe them merely because they are in your head.

To make a point, think how sometimes you feel like slapping someone. I’m sure it happened, but you haven’t gone through with it. Why? Because it’s wrong. But you wanted to do it.

It’s the same with thoughts that spawn from fear and rise as a hurdle in the way of your thinking brain. Your thinking brain is the one able to take stock of where you are, enumerate the resources at your disposal, and assess how they can be applied, and then figure out a plan to go from point A to point B.

Once your thinking brain finishes thinking, it goes to rest. Then your feeling brain takes over and starts imagining things. Your feeling brain loves to make assumptions. It loves to conclude without any proof. And when it does that, it has a way of kicking you in the teeth with no mercy.

It’s so painful that often you are willing to discard those carefully thought ideas, backed up by analysis and written down crystal clear. You’re eager to throw all of that away because of the way you feel.

Can you see why that’s a problem?

“If people aren’t calling you crazy, you aren’t thinking big enough.”Richard Branson

big leap of faith

How To Think Big Properly

To start thinking big the right way, you need to have a chat with your brain. It sounds crazy, but it works. You need to level with each other and come to a truce. Here’s the deal.

Your brain needs to accept that you’ll sit down every so often and think about some crazy shit that you want to do. And you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about it, and it’s going to look big and ugly. For a moment, the brain must accept that and allow you to enjoy the high of those ideas.

But not for long. That is where it’s your turn to give in.

You need to accept that your brain will now freak the hell out and start screaming like a Banshee. It might send sweat down your face, make you shiver, thrust your heart pumping like crazy. It might even resurrect repressed memories you thought were dead, like that time when your teacher told you that you wouldn’t amount to anything.

It’s all okay. It’s a part of the deal.

Let the brain do that. While it’s doing its deed, you relax and breathe through it. Realize that sooner or later, your brain will get tired of it. Observe when that starts to happen. Catch that moment and counter-attack.

Now, it’s essential to have this deal with your brain and become self-aware of this back and forth. It will happen every single time you try to think big. Once you learn your brain’s evil ways, you’ll start getting comfortable with it, and you’ll be able to move on.

To give you a more strategic approach to this process, consider the following five strategies that you can apply to any of your “thinking big” projects. Used correctly, they will tame your brain, and, in the end, you’ll both come out winners.

“There is always room in your life for thinking bigger, pushing limits and imagining the impossible.”Tony Robbins

thinking big goals vision

5 Strategies To Think Big And Survive It


Connect to the vision emotionally

The vision should answer the question “what?”—what you want to become or what you want to accomplish. Your vision is an image, and during the dreaming process, you need to stay away from the “how.” How is a damned question that will ruin the beauty of dreaming every time.

“How” induces fear. “What” is motivating. “How” asks for rules and details. “What” asks for opportunities and possibilities. Don’t mix the two, or you’ll get a bloody mess. When you sit down to create your vision and derive goals from that vision, resist the temptation to question how you’ll get there. That is not the time, and it will dilute the process.

Instead, allow the emotions of the possibilities to fill you with hope, motivation, and a burning desire to go on.


Have big, achievable goals

Once you have a version of your vision, it’s time to bring it down to earth just a bit. Don’t go to the how yet. Give it a bit more time. Allow yourself to bask into the beauty of that vision and sprinkle a bit of reality pixie dust on it.

Add some reality to your audacious dreams and give them a believability dimension. When you do that, you are making your vision seem more attainable.

You are still in the realm of big dreams and aspirations, and you are not yet bogged down into the details of how you are going to achieve them. You’re still thinking big, but the aim here is to realize more so than before that the vision is achievable and begin to craft goals that crystallize that idea.


Go down to the smallest unit

Now that you have a framework for the future project, business, idea, or even your whole life, it’s time to leap back to today. That means leaving a lot of mental space between now and the future. Yes, the road between where you are today and your dreams is long and winding, and you’ll have to solve for all its curves and forks in the road. But not yet.

At this point, you need to take one primary goal and define its absolute smallest unit of action that is immediately actionable and achievable. That’s how you break the spell of thinking too big; you divide and conquer.

For example, if you aim to create a multi-million dollar cosmetics business, your goal today is to find a service provider who can open up your corporation. By filling up that three-page form and paying a few hundred bucks, you just took the first step toward your dream.

Your vision—the end of the road—is still there, high and mighty, but you are now one step closer. Please repeat this step a few times; do it as often as you can until you feel like you are on the belt that’s moving so fast you can no longer jump off it. Now, you’re in it! You’re committed.


Draw mental lines to meet the endpoints

Once you make a few steps in the direction of your dreams, two things will start to manifest: on the one hand, you’ll feel a sense of vitality and self-confidence. After all, you’ve made all these strides forward.

But with each step forward, the complexity of the road ahead also makes the future appear more daunting. Scary. Fear will start to creep it, little by little. “What have I done?” type of questions will pop in your head in the middle of the night.

Now it’s finally the time to get strategic. You are starting to ask that how. Because you already have a foundation given by the few steps you’ve taken already, your starting point is not zero. Therefore you can begin to draw longer mental lines in the direction of those big dreams.

You are mapping the road, but you don’t have to map the whole route. Instead, define the first significant milestone. In the example above, one milestone could be signing up a contract with a cosmetics provider or creating a website for the firm. That is no longer a baby step; it’s a more significant step, but still not the final leap, either.

You are crafting a plan; it’s no longer thinking too big; it’s merely thinking big.


Keep creating bigger milestones and look at trends

With one or two milestones completed, you can now begin to create major milestones. Once could be signing your first client, in the example above. Or, maybe your first bar or CPA exam. Whatever it is, you’ll feel the wind behind your sails created by the energy of the steps you’ve taken already.

Something magical will happen at that moment. You can open your eyes wide and take a mental shot of the big picture, and… it won’t be as scary anymore. It will be as if you’ve climbed half of the mountain that seemed impossible to conquer. The rest is still big but no longer as scary.

The fact that you’ve made those strides already will give you more motivation over time, and you’ll notice how that motivation overrides the fear. Fear will still be there, but now you have a tool to fight back. That dreadful “too” in thinking too big starts to vanish little by little, and all that’s left is you and your big dreams.

The more you advance, the more data you have to support your claims that you’ll be able to get to the end of the road. As you work your way through those audacious goals and dreams, you build a history; you create trends that you can then go back to and analyze, learn from, and use to adapt the rest of the road.

At this point, no amount of fear will be able to kill your momentum. You’re in for the long run.

“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.”Mary Kay Ash

dream big work hard

Keep Thinking Big And Do It Often

Thinking Big Is Supposed To Be Scary

Fear of failure and fear of rejection exist even in those who you’d expect the least to experience those emotions. But they do, just like everybody else. The difference is that those successful people understood and accepted that fear is a normal part of life. They realized that if their dreams don’t scare the shit out of them, those dreams will not be compelling enough and won’t lead them to where they want to go.

You can do the same.

Think big and expect fear. Make it part of the plan. Even write it down. If your project has sixteen steps, write the seventeenth point and make it be “Now shiver and sweat reading this.”

That’s okay. Let that fear course through you, take a few deep breaths, and go back to the five steps above. Go through them, and keep going until the fear washes away. I promise that it will. It will take time and effort, but eventually, fear will wither away, and all there will be left is you, your dreams, and your progress. Soon enough, that fear will even become your friend because when you feel it creeping in, you’ll know you’ve done an excellent job.

Go for it!

Other Resources on Thinking Too Big

Now, before you go, I have…

3 Questions For You

  1. Are you a big-picture thinker, or are you a person who focuses more on the details?
  2. Do you often think too big and feel scared of your dreams? When you do, what do you do?
  3. Did you have a huge dream that was so scary that you abandoned it? Or one where you’ve persevered and eventually accomplished?

Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!



behavior, productivity, self-awareness

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