Tobe Brockner

Why Thinking Big Can Be Terrible Advice

I subscribe to a magazine called Robb Report. If you are unfamiliar with this magazine, it is aimed at a wealthier demographic…like, really wealthier. It showcases articles about buying yachts and luxury real estate and $40,000 watches and $6,000 sweaters. In short, it’s all about living large.

To be clear, I haven’t reached those heights of income and lavish spending thus far in my life's journey. Nor do I aspire to it necessarily. The question begs then, why do I subscribe to this magazine?

Two reasons. First, in my role as a marketer, I am constantly looking at other advertising for ideas, copy, new angles, and offers that others are making. In high end magazines such as Robb Report it is relatively expensive to advertise so those who do so are very good at what they do. I use their work as inspiration and to spark my imagination. There is a practical utility to this exercise.

Secondly however, I read Robb Report to remind myself of what is possible. I use it to enlarge my own vision of the world and what it has to offer. It sometimes shines a spotlight on my own small thinking and serves as a good way to wake up a latent potential in myself and my own ambitions.

That being said, I believe that sometimes the advice of “think big” can be misguided and dangerous.

As I have traveled through life, at certain points I have been so low that simply getting back to a minimal baseline of normalcy seemed like a Herculean task that I was unfit to embark upon. When I weighed 230lbs it was REALLY difficult to imagine myself at my current weight of 163lbs. That leap in my own mind was just too great. Discouraged, I would then never even attempt to make the necessary changes to begin that new journey.

It was just too overwhelming.

It was only when I started thinking smaller that I began to have more consistent success. Instead of setting a target of 165lbs I said to myself, “Can you lose 5lbs?” That seemed doable so I tentatively started down that path. The first week I put my plan into action I lost 8lbs. Emboldened by this small win, I thought, “Ok, if you can lose 8lbs in a week maybe you can lose another 5lbs this week.” The next week I was down another 7lbs. Fifteen pounds in 2 weeks was a great start!

From there, things just snowballed. By setting these smaller, incremental goals I was able to eventually lose the weight and reach my goals.

I have applied this “thinking small” mentality to other areas of my life as well. With my wife I realized I didn’t have to overhaul our entire relationship…I could start by making weekly date night a priority. I didn’t have to build a net worth of a million dollars overnight…but I could begin by paying down my debt incrementally and saving a portion of my income each month. I didn’t have to prepare for a 5K, but I could begin running each morning in 5 minute chunks, building up my time, week by week.

All of these things have led to a degree of what we might call “success” in my life thus far and it all came from intentionally not thinking big. I lowered my sights, curbed my ambitions, and dialed back my BIG vision.

As I have progressed I have allowed myself to set my sights on larger, more ambitious targets. That never would have been possible had I simply set those targets in my sights when I was at the bottom of the hole I had dug for myself. Instead of making it a goal to get out of the hole, I made it a priority to first stop digging. Smaller goal, bigger immediate impact.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, might I suggest lowering your own sights, figuring out some small ways you can generate some wins and then build to something bigger. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. The key is to get started. Where you start is much less important than the simple act of starting somewhere, anywhere.

Try it for 30 days and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and may actually get your life back. 


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Tobe Brockner

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