Your Guide to Doing Big Things (Because We All Have One in Mind)
August 1, 2019
If it feels like everyone is doing Big Things—yes, capital B and T—you're not alone.
Moving to a new city, starting a side hustle, setting new boundaries, falling in love—one glance at Instagram or Facebook can make it seem like everyone is up to Big Things. And, if you're like me, you might be thinking: Sooo…is everyone doing Big Things…except me?
But the thing is, we see what we look for. If you're constantly seeing other people doing Big Things, it might be because, in the back of your mind, you're eager to do the same.
Lucky you, we're here to guide you along every step of the way, from pinpointing your Big Thing, following through, all the way to celebrating your wins (and even your losses).
And the timing couldn't be better. The start of a new month is a great time to begin—plus, who doesn't love those back-to-school feelings bubbling up with hope and change?
Step 1: Pinpoint Your Big Thing
Maybe your life feels like it's been on autopilot (and that's not always a bad thing—routines are calming!). But if everything feels a little too same-same, why not uncover some ways to shake it up?
You're going to create a list, so grab a piece of paper or throw open a new Google Doc.
Let's separate your life into a few different buckets:
●︎ Home: This can include your where you live, who you live with, your physical space
●︎ Work/School: Where you work, what you do, how/where you spend the bulk of your time
●︎ Relationships: Family, friends, significant others
●︎ Fun Stuff: These are your hobbies, leisure activities, and anything that doesn't fall into the other buckets
Now start listing a few new opportunities in each category. They can be improvements (develop a morning routine!), goals (learn French! run a 5K!), or even radical things you can't actually imagine doing (like, say, moving across the country).
Keep going until you're literally all out of ideas. You should have a couple dozen.
Now, think about which Big Things would give you the most joy if you actually accomplished them.
Maybe it's developing a closer relationship with your siblings or taking piano lessons or quitting your job. Circle the top three that make you happiest just thinking about them.
Now (we're almost there!) double-circle the one you realistically think you can accomplish by the end of the year.
Boom—that's your Big Thing.
Step 2: Figure Out Why It Matters to You
Now you're going to dig into the emotional underpinnings of your Big Thing—this is necessary to keep you going when your motivation starts to flag.
Here's the one question to ask yourself to unlock your motivation: "What about (insert your Big Thing here) is important to me?"
Maybe your Big Thing is to feel healthy and strong—and your why might be "because when I feel strong I have more energy to bring to all the other parts of my life."
Dig a little bit deeper and ask yourself why it's important to have more energy: Because it makes you a better coworker, partner, daughter, sister?
Keep asking "why" to each successive answer and you'll get to the root emotion behind your why.
Remember this and remind yourself of it every time you question why you want to make a change.
Step 3: Make Sure It's Not Too Big of a Thing
OK, one question, before we get too far along. Ask yourself the following question:
Is this Big Thing actually doable right now?
Ask yourself: Can I take the steps to accomplish this? Can I stay committed to it with all the other things going on in my life? Answer this honestly. Your Big Thing should be doable, but if it's not…you can always table it for later and approach it on a long-term timeline. Or: Break it down into two or three or five Big Things that are more manageable. A Big Thing doesn't actually have to be big—it just have to make a big impact in your life.
Step 4: Find Your MEA: Minimal Enjoyable Action
The funny thing about Big Things is they don't always start BIG. In fact, their foundations are often quite small. You can build that base by finding your MEA—which stands for Minimal Enjoyable Action.
As behavioral designer Nir Eyal writes, "MEA is a behavior, which is simple, small and just a little enjoyable. It’s so simple, so small, and just enjoyable enough, that you can see yourself doing it for the rest of your life."
He advises to stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself if you can do your MEA. If you respond, "well of course I can, duh," then you've passed the "duh" test.
If your goal is to run a 5K, for example, your MEA might be to jog outside for 5 minutes a day. If you want to have closer relationships, your MEA might be to text one family member every day.
These tiny habits, added up, can become your Big Thing.
Step 5: Try Planning in Reverse
Alright, now that you have your Big Thing in focus, it's time to work backwards. That's actually the secret to achieving long-term goals.
Start by picturing what it would look like to achieve your Big Thing. What would that moment feel like? Now, establish what step would occur directly before that accomplishment, the "just-before" step.
And what would need to happen right before that?
Work backward until you are arrive at where you are today—right now. And look at what you just made, a blueprint for your future. Now, just find the MEAs to build your way forwards.
Step 6: Plan For Your Weaknesses
Weaknesses don't make you weak—they make you human.
But still, it's good to plan for them as you embark on achieving something major. You can hack your goals for your Future You by accounting for these weaknesses.
If your Big Thing is to change jobs by the end of the year, but one of your weaknesses is indecision, then you can account for this by enlisting an accountability partner or someone who will hold you to making a decision.
Or, if you're less skilled at small talk and are worried about the interview process, you can account for that by practicing all those "tell me about yourself" questions.
Getting honest about what worries you most about your Big Thing will help you get closer to achieving it.
Step 7: Extend Yourself Compassion
Finally, this is perhaps the most important part of tackling a Big Thing.
You gotta be OK when you screw up.
Because you will! You will oversleep or skip a day or not hit every single benchmark or feel like your MEA is just a little too much or feel bad some days and good on some others.
And you have to remember that…you're OK. Your Big Thing is still out there and wants you to find it. You can pick it up tomorrow—it's not going anywhere.
You can still make a change after you've been stuck in the same place.
You can still dream big dreams even if you've been dreaming small.
You can have it all. And you can start today.
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