Any large undertaking is overwhelming which is why we stay so stuck. Big undertakings require us to try to predict the future, take us way out of our comfort zone, and present new information with every step we take. The road seems too long to even start. All of this produces a large amount of anxiety which can be absolutely paralyzing before we even take a single step. The paralysis makes us run back to our comfort zone and as we return to the regular routine we either make excuses why it was a bad idea or say “its just not the right time”
To cut through the anxiety and start moving towards the Big Thing, I use a simple gamification technique – The Level Up Badge (LUB). Very few would want to play a video game that doesn’t evolve for years and of course we wouldn’t want to start any big project where the only reward is the end result. That’s why there are level up badges. They get our mind fixed on a very near term, simple and desirable task to get us engaged.
Let’s apply that concept to Big Things we want to accomplish. A Big Thing is anything that is desirable to do but seems overwhelming. It can be as simple as cleaning a garage or as complex as developing a new disruptive technology.
The way we can identify something as a Big Thing is that our mind keeps revisiting it but we never take action.
The purpose of the Level Up Badge is to identify one small piece of the Big Thing that can be easily accomplished in a very short timeframe. That provides a simple task, an immediate reward and get us started down the path without getting caught in analyze it. It helps us achieve the words of one of my heroes:
“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” – Tina Fey
A very large chute feels overwhelming. A very small chute is totally easy. Level Up Badges break a very long chute into tiny ones. Let’s use the career workshop I want to design as an example. This is a very real conversation between my rational self and my reactive mind.
Rational: I want to start a career workshop
Reaction: Ahhh! What if no one would go? Where would I hold it? What are my targets? (these questions go on – my strategic brain kicks in to point out tons of complexity because it is scary)
Rational: Of course you can start the career workshop if you set your mind to it.
Reaction: Maybe I want to start a career school – not just a workshop. It has to be BIG BIG BIG BIG! But it can’t just be a career school – I want to do other things too. I love my startup clients. What about them? What about the life stuff I do? (racing thoughts. paralysis.)
Rational: Stop. Walk your talk. Design a level up badge. You have to just start with something small. What is one thing you can do.
Reaction: I can get some practice by offering a webcast on the anatomy of a job search thing I was thinking about
Rational: Ok. Great idea. Now make it smaller.
Reaction: I don’t have a webcast platform I’m using. I need to get one.
Rational: Ok. Perfect. How can you do that?
Reaction: I’ll just find a simple one for one single webcast. I can find that online.
Reaction: I’ll do it after my afternoon client
Rational: What might get in your way?
Reaction: Trying to make it too big. But I’m not going to focus on the content, just the platform.
Rational: Awesome! Level One Designed!
As you can see – designing a LUB for our big idea requires us to break the beginning steps into one very small piece. The pieces have to get broken down until there is one thing that is so simple it can absolutely be done. Following this process gives our anxiety no where to go. We stop trying to predict the future, remove our ego from the equation and are no longer paralyzed by the desired outcome.
So, for to design your Big Thing LUB, take one small question you want to get answered about it or one small thing to get organized. Ask yourself if it can get done in under 30 minutes. If not, make it even smaller. Make it so small that it feels senseless to not accomplish. Then give yourself a date to do it by. Ask what might get in your way and put a plan around that. You’ll get started down the path. As you move down it, the path may twist or even change drastically and that’s ok. You won’t be stuck anymore and it will feel so good.
And now, you see I have accomplished my Level 1 badge of evolving my business. I needed to get into the right mindset by doing some reflecting on Level Up Badges! Now on to Level 2. Hurray!