An executive we once knew who had achieved absolutely exceptional growth during a 40+ year career with his firm once reflected on his early years. His biggest regret, he said to an audience of admirers—people who dreamed of achieving 1/10th of what this man did in his lifetime—was that he didn’t think big enough. In the early days of the business, when it was just a startup, he had set what he thought were audacious goals. Looking back, he realized that if he’d set his sights even higher, he’d have achieved even more.

The brain works this way. What we think about most of the time becomes reality. We are the product of our own obsessions.

Most of us control our thoughts and expectations by asking, consciously or unconsciously, what is reasonable. What makes sense? We weigh our strengths and weaknesses, our history and past experience, what we think we know about the world and we use these preconceptions to create our vision for the future. What we think about most of the time becomes reality.

But this is true whether the premise is “reasonable” or “unreasonable”. The mind doesn’t care if you actually know the path to achieving your ambitions and vision; it just wants the picture, the end-in-mind. We hear echoes of this reality in the memoirs and musings of successful people time and time again. When they look back on their most humble periods, all they remember is an obsession with the way things were going to be. Success never makes sense until we look backward. Like the concept of creating something from nothing, these rise-from-the-ashes stories seem improbable. Yet they form the foundation of our country’s narrative about opportunity and have become a huge part of our national discourse.

The reality is that no one deserves or doesn’t deserve anything. Capabilities, education and circumstances are somewhat unreliable predictors of success; what we know is that people get what they want out of life. When our current reality doesn’t match up with what we think we want, we need to start paying attention to what we’re really thinking about. Chances are, even if we want something better, we’re thinking within “reasonable” confines. If you want “reasonable” results, that’s fine. But if you want something bigger, you need to think bigger every moment of every day.

You’ll solve all the problems along the way and most of the time won’t know how to get from point A to point B, but the only thing that matters is having a clear picture of point B, and making sure that it’s really and truly the biggest vision you can manage. Stick to it, think about it always, and it will manifest itself. The #1 most important thing in life and in business is thinking big.

Question: Could you be thinking bigger?

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