The cliche of “daring” to set big, hairy goals for ourselves can be found in one form or another in just about every self-help book ever written and commencement speech ever delivered.










Great achievements start with great imagination…you have to hitch your wagon to a star just to reach the top of the trees…imagine your beautiful future down to the most minute of details and you’ll be on your way to making it a reality…yada yada yada.

I’m all for thinking big, but I think these bromides can set people up for failure just as much as they can propel them toward success.

I think there’s a “dangerous” side to thinking big. Especially when you really mean it–when you’re not just indulging in playful fantasy but actually drumming up real desire.

The danger is this:

Big goals require big effort, big courage, and big sacrifice. Much, much bigger than many people think.

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They have no clue how many thousands of hours of practice came before the Carnegie Hall performance…how much thankless toil came before the bestselling novel…how many hours of sleep were lost building the company…how many risks must be taken, how many failures are experienced along the way, how many distractions life offers you, how many justifications for giving up you can invent, and how many times you’ll have nobody but yourself for consolation and support.

Call me cynical but thinking big just doesn’t seem to be for everyone. Some people just don’t seem to be cut out for it.

Look around for a moment and consider how many dreamers you know that are making real, tangible progress toward making those dreams a reality. Not boasts of what could or will be but actual results.

My guess is you don’t know very many. Why? Are they just not thinking big enough? Did they just forget to envision the wheel color of their imaginary Lamborghini or number of cents in their imaginary Swiss bank account?

No. Thinking better thoughts will have absolutely no bearing on their circumstances.

These people just don’t realize that big goals are to be respected. Feared, even.

Trifle with them at your own risk because they can break you–they can split you open and lay bare your every weakness and insecurity. Some people’s spirits just never recover from their disastrous encounters with big goals.

If, at the outset of a “big think,” you feel nothing but excitement, assuredness, and optimism…and not even a twinge of sobriety, humility, or apprehension…you’re probably going to fail. Don’t pull up the anchor just yet.

If you’re not ready to sacrifice damn near everything at the altar of Big Think…your weekends…your social life…your social media accounts…your hobbies, TV shows, and video games…turn back. You’re not ready.

But if you can confidently stand in the shadow of the monolthic Big Goal…if you can steel your gaze, harden your jaw, and begin what you know is going to be a long, hard march through treacherous, hostile lands, you probably have what it takes to survive the journey.

The moral of this article is choose your goals carefully. 

Take a ruthlessly realistic look at what you’re getting yourself into and what it will entail and ask yourself if you’re ready. Believe in your abilities, but don’t put on rose-colored glasses. Plan for success, but don’t let optimism make you soft.

You can achieve big goals, but they’re probably going to take more effort, time, and sacrifice than you think. If you can face that comfortably, then you’re ready to begin.