"Next" is a powerful word.
In four little letters, "next" holds the potential of what could be. The chance for something new to be realized.
But none of us hears “next” quite the same, do we? I happen to think there are two basic ways most of us approach “next”. As dreamers or doers.
If we’re dreamers, we may ignore it. Or leap over it. Who needs a next step when there’s a skyscraper of a dream in our heads? Next is too small, too insignificant, too insipid to merit our full attention.
If we’re doers, we may get stuck on next; never looking ahead to the grand staircase of nexts we were meant to build. We can’t see the bigger picture when there’s so much to be done right now.
Let’s put it in another paradigm, the one about the elephant. I’m sure you have heard it at some point…”How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” No this is not advocating for actually eating elephants, but rather the reminder that every overnight success is 20 years in the making.
The challenge is when doers don’t dream, their lives stay small and when dreamers don’t take action their dreams remain a figment of their imagination, never realizing their full potential.
Do you grasp that the elephant-sized dream? You get energized by the enormity of it, can see it, smell it, taste it. Have you made any progress on it? In the past 30 days, how have you moved it from mind to matter? How have you moved it forward into existence?
Or do you have a firm grip on the fork? You’re chewing. You’re a master of getting it done. In fact, you’re getting it done with so much determination that you regularly forget what it is you’re eating, how utterly massive an elephant can be. You forget how to dream.
Do you grasp the elephant? And in all your dreaming, do you struggle to get it done?
Or do you grip the fork? And in all your doing, do you struggle to dream?
Either way, an elephant’s hide is tough.
Maybe you need to lay down the fork for a moment and take stock of the elephant-sized potential in front of you. To think bigger and broader. To risk. Maybe instead of a next step you’re supposed to leap. To do something outlandishly large, like starting a business or imagining the vast potential right there in your role as a stay-at-home parent or raising the funds to dig five wells in Africa or signing up for a half marathon. Bigger dreams for the doer who specializes in small.
Or maybe you need to stop measuring the elephant and simply take a small bite or two, to set a few actionable goals or simple next steps, like making three more sales calls every day or creating a profile on LinkedIn or engaging your preschool children with one more book before naptime or sending the check you’ve meant to send for months to support a non-profit or signing up for that gym membership (or actually going to the gym you joined eight months ago). Small steps for the big dreamer.
The truth is, no matter who we are, most of us lean toward the elephant or toward the fork. Most of us do not have a perfectly balanced dream-to-action ratio. Some of us tip so far toward dreaming that we’re known for talking a big game and never getting any of it done. And others are so off-kilter the other direction that the people who know us will get frustrated with our lack of ambition.
So, where do you fall on the dream to action continuum? The reason I ask is, growth always starts right where you are. And the mere fact that you are reading this indicates you’re interested in growth. You want to become a better dreamer and a better doer of that dream. You want to make an impact, regardless of the size.
Imagine the potential of what could be, to see the elephant-sized dream on your plate? Imagine finding routine in taking action on that dream each day, bite by bite. Our dreams and our actions determine a lifetime of nexts, not only yours, but the trajectory of nexts for the people whose lives you touch.
Because the world is in desperate need of dreamers who know how to do their dreams and doers who know how to dream.
The world needs you to bite your elephant.