“Think big thoughts, but relish small pleasures.” (H. Jackson Browne)
There are some quotes I come across that are simple, elegant, and meaningful to me. This is one of those quotes. It captures in 7 short words, a recipe for success that I have seen successfully applied time and again.
I know that if I want to reach a goal I have to dream big, I have to be aspirational in my thoughts. If I set a goal that is too easily reached, or isn’t a “big thought”, then one of two things will happen. Either I will reach it, and it will be of no consequence; or I will never reach it because there doesn’t seem to be much to be gained. When setting the goal, it has to be big.
Some years back I was working in a department that did Process Improvement workshops. To put on one of these workshops we had to get with leaders of teams, develop a plan of attack, assemble a team, and run the event. The planning portion of this might take a week or two, or possibly longer. The events themselves were usually of a 1 to 3 day length.
When the calendar turned to January, I and everyone else in my department, had to create our yearly objectives. I had done this many times before, so I set myself to the task of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound). I had a number of areas of work where I set them; one of those areas was the number of workshops I would conduct in the new year. I don’t remember what number I set, but I do remember it was based on the number I had completed in the previous year, with a modest increase.
I took my objectives to my manager and we sat down to a discussion on them. After a bit, he came to that number and asked how I had arrived at it. When I told him my thought process, he asked me if I wanted to be only modestly successful, or if I wanted to be GREATLY successful. I immediately understood what he was saying. I went back to my desk and increased the number of workshops dramatically. He had encouraged me to think big thoughts, and not be limited by what I had done in the past, or my mindset on how things had always worked.
That year, as each workshop concluded, I would sit with a co worker and have a bit of a celebration. Nothing too big, just a discussion among colleagues on how things went, why it was a success, and how things could be done better next time. Typically these discussions were less than an hour, and there was a continuous improvement focus. At the same time, each was a mini-celebration. We were taking the time to “relish small pleasures.”
When the end of the year came, I had not only reached, but exceeded the more aspirational goal. I had accomplished more in that year than I had thought possible, and there was still room for more. There were many reasons why I was able to achieve so much. I was surrounded by a like-minded team, all pulling in the same direction; there was a big push in the company to make improvements; we had good press from previous successes, and so on. I also know that part of the reason I succeeded personally was that I set my goal high, worked hard to get to it, and celebrated along the way.
I have written before about my love of “to do” lists. I find that even on a daily basis I get more done when I have a healthy list of things to do, and proudly scratch things off as I go.
Today’s quote is a reminder to me to think big. There are some places in my life where I have been content with incremental change and success, and some of those need some work.