What To Do When Your Big Idea Scares You

jumpstart your big idea

It’s January. This is the time of resolutions, fresh starts and big visions. For some people, the new year offers a chance to reflect and set new goals. For others, it serves as a new reminder that the time is now to act on your big goal.

I have one client, a CEO of a fast-growing tech start-up who started to realize he needed to make a huge company-wide strategic change. He was unsure if it was the right direction, if investors would support the 90 degree turn, and if he and his team could make the transition smoothly.

Big ideas can mean big changes. That can feel scary and bring up a lot of our niggling self-doubts that we’re not up to the job.

I see this in clients whenever they are approaching a new way of operating. This can be: 1) a mid-life career change that seems to be “calling your name ” 2) implementing a significant project at work – especially if it’s highly visible – or 3) even just a new way of acting at work (speaking up more in meetings, lobbying for a promotion, working to increase your influence.)

You’ll know when you’re starting to approach a new precipice because all your personal gremlins will come out to play. . .

“What if I’m not good/smart/talented/(fill in the blank) enough to pull it off?”

“What if I’m mistaken that this is the right path to take?”

“What if I lose everything I’ve built up to make this leap and I’m left with nothing?”

Dealing with these gremlins is hard work, I’ll admit it. And there’s usually not a one-size-fits-all solution. But here are three excellent start-up strategies to get you started moving in the right direction for 2015.

Three Steps To Jumpstart Your Big Idea Into Action

1. Figure Out What Really Scares You

I often find with my clients that failure is what really scares them when they are anticipating beginning on a big new idea. That makes sense. As human beings, we’re built to be risk averse. It’s kept us alive all these millennia and it’s probably pretty helpful on a day-to-day basis as well. Often what I find is that we fear failure without really digging into what that failure would mean to us personally. If your big new plan fails will your family starve? Will you lose face/credibility at work? Will you just feel really bad about yourself? These have very different consequences – make sure a generalized fear of failure isn’t holding you back when your particular risks are lower.

2. Gather Your Support Team

Big ideas, ones that change lives, companies, the world – they are not usually implemented in isolation. You need to gather a support team around you for many reasons. First of all, they can help identify your blind-spots or possible risk/rewards you didn’t even imagine. Secondly, it’s much easier to fight the gremlins and keep moving forward when you have someone objective to talk to and keep you on track (a tiny plug for great coaches here.) Lastly, often two+ minds really are greater than one – leave room for others to build on your ideas and help you develop them even further.

3. Set Up a First Stage Experiment

I’m a big fan of calculated risks. It’s hard to jump off a building and believe the net will catch you. It’s much easier to jump off the landing, then the first floor etc and keep reassuring yourself that the net will catch you. Often there are ways to test your big idea before you launch full-force. If you’re trying a to speak-up more in meetings at work, perhaps you can speak up in low-stakes meetings first and test the waters. Similarly, you can demo a stripped down prototype to get useful feedback before building out the whole product. And if you’re career-hopping, try a consulting gig in the new field first, (perhaps even while going part-time at your current company.). In today’s fast-moving world, it’s often easy to believe decisions should be all or nothing. But big ideas need launching pads. What test launch can you design first before aiming for the stars?

Let’s be honest. There might be more between you and your big idea implemented than three steps. But these steps help you set your compass towards action and help lower the threshold to beginning. And think of all the big ideas that never even got to the starting line – maybe this year you should give yours a fighting chance!

Comment below and let me know which strategy you want to try first. . .

And if you’re looking for further inspiration – download my leadership success manual now by clicking on the sign-up button at the top right.

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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