How big is your dream for your business? And how big is your dream for this year?
When I ask most business owners and entrepreneurs this question, their answers are rarely very big. Typical answers go something like this …
- I’d like to grow by maybe 10% this year (occasionally I’ll hear 15%)
- I’d like to add one or two new staff members
- If we can just hit the same numbers as last year, that would be awesome
- If we could add ten new clients this year, that would be great
The problem with those statements is that they run smack dab into expectation theory. And what is expectation theory? Expectation theory states that, in general, what we expect is what we get.
It’s one of the inherent problems with goal setting. Not that goal setting is bad, but when you set a target to grow by 10%, you rarely grow by 20% or 50%—even though either of those could be viable options—if your expectations were set for them, but they’re not.
In other words, one of the biggest limiters to scaling any business is the expectation that you, the leader of your business have, as to what is possible for you and your business this year, as well as into the future.
So, if you want to build a more scalable business, one of the first places you’ll want to start is with your expectations of what you and your business are capable of achieving—and how fast you can achieve them. Once you adjust your thinking to thinking on a larger scale, you’ll be amazed at how much more will get done and at a much faster rate.
So, if you want to learn how to think bigger for your business, here are five keys to get you started on that journey.
I. Ask Bigger, More Empowering Questions
If you’ve been reading any of my content for any length of time you know that I frequently say that questions are the key to thinking. The way our brains have been wired is that questions trigger thoughts. So, if you want to think bigger, by definition, you need to ask bigger, more empowering questions.
But what do bigger, more empowering questions look like? Well, here are a few sample questions to get your brain engaged.
- What if we could grow by 30% (or 50% or 100%) this year? What would that look like?
- What if we were to expand our geographical footprint outside of our community/city and grow statewide (or regionally or nationally or globally)?
- What if we were to become the national leader in our market? What would that look like?
- What if we were to become a $100M company in the next five years. What would that look like?
- What if we were to 10X our results in the next three years. What would that look like?
- What if we were to become the most innovative company in our market space over the next three years. What would that look like?
- What if we were to build 50 company stores over the next few years. What would that look like?
You get the idea. As Tony Robbins says so well.
The quality of your questions determines the quality of your answers.
In other words, ask a small question, get a small answer. Ask a bigger question, get a bigger answer.
So, if you want to scale your business faster, you might want to expand the kinds of questions you’re asking yourself. Ask bigger, more empowering questions and you’ll get bigger, more empowering answers.
II. Surround Yourself With Big Thinkers
There’s an educational theory known as social learning theory. The common phraseology describing this theory states, “You become like those with whom you spend the most time.” This is why most parents ride their kids to pick their friends carefully because we all know, that who we spend time with does influence the person we become.
Realizing this, it just makes sense that as adults, we ought to be just as intentional about choosing those with whom we’re going to spend our time. This principle works on multiple levels. For example,
- Socially. You have a massive amount of control over with whom you spend your time. Why not decrease the amount of time you spend with small thinkers and intentionally increase the amount of time you spend with people who stimulate your brain and encourage you to dream bigger.
- Intellectually. You choose what you put into your brain. You can either spend a lot of time reading the news or reading entertainment or reading biographies of successful entrepreneurs and risk takers. Choose wisely.
- Meetings/Conferences. When you go to conferences or meetings of seminars, there are always a wide range of people present. You can either spend your time with small thinkers (“Let’s go get smashed”) or with big thinkers (“Let’s go change the world”). It’s your choice.
Every day you choose with whom you’re going to spend your time, either in person or through the mediums of the printed page or the internet (text, video or audio). Why not choose wisely and choose to spend more time interacting with those who will inspire you to think bigger?
III. Expose Yourself to Big Thinking Experiences
As you know, reading is a powerful medium. However, experiencing something firsthand is even more powerful because it invokes even more of your senses. You know this to be true. Reading about a vacation spot and experiencing that vacation spot are two completely different experiences.
So, as you’re thinking about how to think bigger, what kinds of experiences would help you dream bigger? Here are a few ideas to get your brain started on this.
- Nature. Who isn’t inspired to think bigger when they observe the size and majesty of the ocean or a mountain or a waterfall?
- Bigger Businesses. It could be a company larger in your industry (let’s say you’re an ad agency so you’d tour a larger ad agency) or it could be a company outside your industry (for example, tour Zappos). Either way, your brain should be fully engaged and motivated by either or both of those experiences.
- Great Hospitality. Who isn’t inspired eating a gourmet meal in a top tier restaurant or staying in a beautiful hotel or resort?
- History. Standing in the place where great men and women have walked before, from a battlefield to a castle to a workshop to museum can inspire you to think bigger and to think about the legacy you want to leave behind.
Whichever option (or options) you choose, make sure you use those experiences to fuel your big thinking. Use them to ask bigger questions and you’ll be inspired to think bigger.
IV. Get to Know the Back Story
One of the reasons why so many of us have trouble thinking big is because we look at others who’ve experienced more success than we have and we use that to confirm that we don’t have what it takes to experience that same kind of massive success. Note: I’m not affirming that comparison is a good idea, I’m simply acknowledging that’s what most of us do.
The problem with this (besides playing the comparison game) is that our perceptions of those who are more successful are shaped by PR narratives that don’t tell the full back story. There’s almost always something that isn’t being reported in the press.
For example, back in my old pastoral days, I met with a former pastor at one of the largest churches in the country (now, 20,000+ people per week). When I was asking him about the early days, one of the stories he told me that “no one reports,” is that when the church was only running 300 people per week, a large church down the road split and 500 people from that other church came to his former church one weekend later—which not only more than doubled their attendance, it automatically gave them as massive cash infusion because the people who came were from the wealthiest church in town, which then allowed them to do a lot more faster than they ever could have done apart from that split.
The reason why I believe these kinds of back story factoids are so important to thinking bigger is because they reduce the perceptional difference in our minds between us and them. The success stories you or I hear about or read about in Inc. magazine or on a webinar or at a conference, all make the heroes of these stories sound like “gods” (i.e. small g gods). The reality is almost always far more different. They’re just people like you and me.
What makes this so powerful is that once you know the back story, all of a sudden you’ll start thinking, “Well, if they can do it, I can do it.” Exactly! You’ll stop limiting yourself and start unleashing your potential.
V. Refuse to Be Mired in the Past or Today
To be mired means to be stuck (originally used to describe being stuck in mud). Another one of the reasons why so many business owners and entrepreneurs struggle with thinking big is because their brains are stuck in the past or are overwhelmed by the present.
For those stuck in the past, it’s usually related to some kind of failure in the past.
- I’ve tried growing fast in the past and it didn’t work
- I tried launching a new product and it didn’t work
- I tried opening a second location and it was a miserable failure
- I’ve hired several sales people and they’ve all failed
For those stuck in the present, it’s usually related to their sense of overwhelm with all that currently needs to be done.
- I have so much on my plate, I can’t imagine doing any more.
- Everyone is overworked around here. We don’t have any extra capacity. We’re all tapped out. Why dream of more?
- I got into this business to create more freedom for myself. I’ve created a prison. Why would I ever want more of this?
Either way, stuck-ness related to the past or the present, is a strong deterrent to thinking big. So, what can you do to turn that around?
Well, one idea is to schedule dreaming time (this fits perfectly with your weekly/monthly planning times). In dreaming time, you mentally turn off that part of your brain that wants to use the past or the present to shut down any growth initiatives and instead you consciously focus on what ifs and the future.
One of the ways I’ve done this over the years when I’ve felt overwhelmed by either the failure of the past or the sense of overwhelm with the present is to play the “Let’s close this down and restart it” game. In essence, I would mentally say, “Okay, I’ve failed. I’m closing this down and restarting it again. Based on what I have left, what can I start with?”
Note: the answer is always far more than what I actually started with. And since this is day 1 (and there is no baggage), “How big can I grow this company based on what I now know and what I have left over to restart with?” I’ve played this game hundreds of times over the past few decades and it always works. It gets me to leave the past behind and focus entirely on the future.
That said, whatever mental game you need to play to get your head out of the past and/or present, play it. Those two realities, the past and present, are really irrelevant to your future success, unless you let them be. So, don’t let them be. Use any positive experiences from the past to fuel your motivation and use any negative experiences to fuel your learning, but never let the past or present keep you mired in them. Use them to propel you and your business onto even greater success.
So, there you have it. Five keys to thinking bigger.
- Ask bigger, more empowering questions
- Surround yourself with big thinkers
- Expose yourself to big thinking experiences
- Get to know the back story
- Refuse to be mired in the past or today
Trust me, if you use these five ideas on a consistent basis, you’ll start thinking bigger about your business. And once you start thinking bigger about your business, you’ll be amazed at how much faster you’ll scale and how much more impact you and your company will have.
To your accelerated success!