The Power of Thinking Small
We hear all the time, dream big, play big, don’t settle. We read articles, see on TV and here it over and over again from the most prolific figures in the coaching industry. We must dream bigger.
As a human performance coach, I believe in the concept and power of big dreams. I coach, inspire and encourage people to discover what they really want in life. As a behavioral science junkie, I also understand that thinking and dreaming big, too big, can paralyze us.
Dreaming of someplace other than where we are is part of human nature. We learn, grow and strive for what’s next (We can argue the sanity of not being at peace with who, what and where we are another time). But why does it seem that so few people ever achieve some form of “break-through” performance?
Are some people meant to attract abundance in their lives and others only meant to accept who they are and what they know? I don’t think so, but there can be a negative physiological response to dreaming big.
In his book, Boundaries for Leaders, Dr. Henry Cloud highlights some critical principles leaders should understand to effectively cultivate the highest levels of performance from individuals and teams. Cloud shares the power of positive emotional states versus the destructive nature of negative emotional states as it relates to performance. It is reasonable to assume, for the sake of this article, that we are all leaders of our own lives as adults striving for another level of personal performance, as parents, friends and family members. Thus, the applicability of Cloud’s teaching.
When a person is in a positive emotional state (happy, rewarded, loved, peaceful, abundance), a healthy flow of blood is provided to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the executive function center of the human mind. This is the location of the brain from which creativity, decision-making and solutions are derived. In a negative emotional state (fear, anxiety, hate, sadness, jealousy, guilt, shame), blood flow is restricted to this area of the brain and a person loses the majority of any “thinking” ability other than their most basic instinctual ability, also known as a fight or flight response.
So, back to dreaming big. When we think about the big things we want in our lives that we do not currently have (money, fame, house, relationship, great fitness, wonderful career, impact on humanity), human beings for the most part have a fight or flight reaction. The concepts are “too” big. Because we do not know what life looks and feels like once we achieve these big dreams, we actually have the same physiological reaction in our brains as if a tiger were chasing us, Fear. This causes a restriction of blood flow to the prefrontal cortex inhibiting one’s ability to make decisions, think creatively and derive solutions. Thus, no action is taken and our dreams remain exactly that, another form of our inability to execute.
It’s great to dream big, now our opportunity is to stop judging ourselves for not achieving those dreams and simply recognize we need to change our approach. Dream big, but think small. Break your dream down into small, tiny, seemingly insignificant activities. Two things happen; one, you start to make progress and two, you teach yourself to overcome the fear of the outcome.
In his book The Kaizen Way , Dr. Robert Maurer shares the power of taking these tiny steps. We avoid the fight or flight response and empower ourselves to take action.
So dream big, but break your thinking down into what one thing you can do, today. It will be a small step, but in the direction of your dreams.
By Matt Hudson
Matt Hudson is a performance and business coach, founder and CEO of Colorado Home Realty and a passionate champion for excellence in the real estate industry.