Ideas are fantastic things. No book gets written, no business gets started, and no adventures get off the ground without someone having a great idea first. The problem is that ideas are bigger than we often give them credit for, and they have a shelf life.
Given enough time, the great idea that was going to change your life can end up being the very thing holding you back.
The first problem with ideas is that they take up a lot of mental space and energy. A novel comes with characters, plot, dialogue, twists, and sometimes a wholly different world than the one we live in. A business plan includes ideas for products or services, marketing strategies, pricing (and profit!) daydreams, and so on. That’s a lot to keep in mind all the time! While we may be capable of generating hundreds of great ideas, the chance that we can concentrate on more than one in detail is extremely slim.
The other problem is that having one solid, unused idea can chip away at your creativity. Here’s how: It’s too tempting to rest on the thought that you were creative enough to think of that first idea. Eventually, you’re still be congratulating yourself for a thought you had months or even years ago, instead of challenging yourself to be creative in the present. The longer you have your best plans tucked away, the less you’ll feel like pushing yourself to come up with something different.
So how do you keep your amazing idea from restricting your mental and creative energy? Act on it. As long as ideas remain passive, abstract thoughts, they’re useless. Taking steps to put your idea into action boosts creativity and motivation, frees you to brainstorm new possibilities, not to mention lets you actually enjoy the exciting experience you’ve been dreaming of for so long. Even failure isn’t a bad thing. If you find out the idea isn’t as good as you originally thought, you have the feedback and incentive you need to think of something that will work better.
Here are some ways to get your idea out fast:
- Give yourself an immediate deadline.
“Write my novel this year” won’t work. “Write first chapter this month” is better. “Write my first page today” pushes you to start now. Break large projects into bite size pieces not only do you see immediate results, you reduce the fear of movement. (This can, of course, be customized for any goal—cook one recipe, write a business plan, compare prices for plane tickets to Bali—just get started today!)
- Get community support.
Writer? Try National Novel Writing Month. Want to start your own business? Join an organization for small business owners. Connecting to others who share your goals is a great way to get encouragement, feedback, and motivation. Many times, this could be as simple as joining a group on Linkedin.
- Forget “going to be.”
If you practice guitar today, you’re not going to be a musician, you are one. If you write (even 100 words), you are a writer. “Going to be” puts your goal in an indefinite future. If you’re working on your passion, you are already behaving like the person you want to be.
Having an idea is an important first step, but acting on it is the real proof of creativity. How can you make your idea happen today?