By Laura Berger
Principal, The Berdéo Group
You aspire for positive changes in your business and personal life. You’re thinking big and looking forward to achieving your aspirations with great excitement. In spite of that, at some point, too many of us give up on our dreams. Why?
The harsh truth is that although our conscious mind wants great things for us, we have a terrible troll—our subconscious—that does not.
In fact, this troll hates change of any type. Focused on self-preservation, it basks in the status quo and above all cannot tolerate one thing: fear.
Where is your conscious mind in this process?
Unless you take time to engage regularly in awareness exercises, your conscious mind has no idea what your troll is up to. That’s why it’s called a subconscious mind—because it flies below the radar of your awareness.
What’s more, your conscious mind wants immediate gratification. You are thinking big. The goal of your big project is likely your greatest life’s dream. The greater the payoff, the less you want to wait. So you rush ahead, often without a concrete or methodical plan that would calm your troll. And that just feeds the monster.
Fortunately, if you realize this, you have started to win the battle against the troll. The next step is to take control.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
It may not sound sexy or fun, but realize that if you pit your immediate self-gratification consciousness against your self-preservative troll that wants no change—the troll will win every time.
The key to going from thinking big to being big is being patient with yourself—and taking time to enjoy the ride. The reality of life is that the greatest learning comes from what lies along the path, not what is at the destination. So learn how to master success by first developing your own black belt in patience and play diplomat with your troll.
Following are ways to help you comfortably maintain a slow pace and trick your troll into relative indifference.
1. Create a “goal per day” calendar. My husband and I are writing a book about our “think-big decision” to move to the jungles of Costa Rica, an adventure we set out on a few months after we were married. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was more challenging than we expected. But while there, we set aside time to document one small goal per day.
I encourage you to do the same. You can use an online or paper calendar to document your goal. Set aside a little time at the end of each month to chart out the next month. Having a feeling of achievement from accomplishing at least that one thing each day creates a sense of immediate gratification that feeds the fire in your belly that brought you to think big in the first place.
2. Maintain a “Fear Journal.” Write 10 minutes each day about your fears. Be frank and open, and get it all out and down on paper.
Prior to moving to Costa Rica and while living there, I took to journaling specifically on my fears—fears of the unknown, assumptions I had created in my mind, worst-case scenarios, and fears associated with a loss of my sense of self. Seeing that list of fears on paper helped me to conceptualize my situation clearly enough to keep logic top-of-mind, and keep my troll from taking over.
3. Have short and regular conversations with positive people, but don’t clear from your life everyone who doesn’t support your ideas. Conventional wisdom says to eliminate the naysayers from your life, and sustain the cheerleaders. But sometimes the friends you have had for years aren’t on board with your new big ideas.
Remember this: The friends you have had for years have been your friends for a reason. Don’t drop people just because you have a bigness project. Just don’t discuss it with people who don’t support it. And if they push your buttons, have honest conversations with them. If they are your friends, they will be open to talking candidly.
4. Enjoy yourself. If you aim to jog rather than sprint, and patiently keep your troll at bay, you may not accomplish things quickly. But ask yourself this: Would you rather run four or five successful bigness projects over the next several years? Or would you rather look back on 20 failures with a victorious troll ready to sabotage your next dream? Remember, use tools that sedate your troll, and bigness will be yours!
About Laura Berger
An executive advisor and founder of The Berdéo Group, Laura Berger has 15 years of experience as a consultant advising leadership in the areas of global operations management and strategy, project and change management, and solution development and implementation. She is a confidant of CEOs and senior executives who consistently realize their potential as leaders by seeing their companies flourish.
Having worked with many Fortune 500 companies, her clients include leaders at JPMorgan Chase, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, General Motors, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, McDonald’s Corporation, American Hospital Association, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Starcom MediaVest Group, and Walt Disney World.
Her ease and zeal for building lasting relationships, acquaintances, and productive introductions between people is her personal trademark. She has stretched her own spirit and will to combine her passions with her professional pursuits, and she shows others how to live true to their core.