Your Big Idea is Not Enough

How to quit stalling and begin finishing.

“One day, I'll open up a coffee shop.”
“One day, I'll fight human trafficking.”
“One day, I'll move overseas.”

So, you’ve got dreams. A lot of people in their 20s and 30s are dreamers. Who cares? The world doesn’t need your dreams; it needs your action. It needs your life to matter. And so do you. How do you begin? Start.

Dreaming is stalling

The first girl I ever asked out was a cheerleader named Katie. It took me months to work up the gall. Finally, one night after school, I walked up to her and did it. I had envisioned the conversation for months, practiced it for weeks. But when it finally happened, it was a completely different ball game.

After she said yes, Katie walked away. Then, she turned around and said with a smile, "It's about time." Ever since, I've been hearing that phrase each time I begin to pursue a passion.

As it turns out, starting isn’t the same as dreaming. The two are quite different. Although the latter may lead to the former, dreaming can be overrated.

Certainly, it's important to give yourself permission to dream and to discipline yourself with goals, if they work for you. But there is an underlying deception in all dreams that is downright pernicious: it looks like you're working when you're not.

You only have so much time. Why not spend it where it counts the most—on doing, not talking or thinking about doing. On starting, not dreaming. Why waste your time waiting? Do something better and far more productive. Begin.

Choosing to start is scary

What holds people back from living their dreams? In a word, fear. They are afraid of failure. Afraid of looking foolish or getting embarrassed. So they don't even bother with getting started. They sabotage themselves before they begin. All because of fear.

Here’s an important lesson: The fear never goes away. Whether you start or not, it’s always there. People who do great things will tell you this. You will always question yourself, always wonder if what you're doing is worthwhile. So you might as well get off the couch and have something to show for it.

All decisions are intimidating. That's what deciding is all about. The word “decide” in its Latin root actually means “to cut off.” Which is appropriate, because deciding is the art of cutting off all other possibilities. Deciding to start is no different. It will hurt a little. If you're not feeling uncomfortable, then you're probably not challenging yourself.

Deciding is hard, especially for those in the early stages of life. We've been given so many opportunities, so many choices. We get paralyzed because we don't know where to begin. Opportunity cripples the ability to choose. We hesitate, question, doubt. And then, we get stuck.

If you wait, you fail. That’s what I did. For years, I wrote essays on my computer and told my friends that one day, I would be a writer. But the truth is I never believed it. It wasn’t until I started calling myself a writer—started sharing my writing and pursuing publication—that I began to live it. Now, on the other side of a book deal, I can see that everything I did up until that moment was just stalling.

Every time you hesitate is a moment lost to the forces of resistance, the powers that don't want you to begin. Because these enemies know if they keep you distracted with dreaming, you are no threat to their system. And the best part is you don't even realize it.

It's not enough to dream

So many people think of today as practice for tomorrow. But it’s not. This is your life—today. It’s not a dress rehearsal for the future; it’s all you have. That’s why they say, "seize the day"—you can’t just plan to seize tomorrow. Every day, you have this choice: to wait to be asked, or take hold of your life. Those who make a difference are the ones who jump in. They sacrifice safety and comfort for the satisfaction of doing work that matters. Sure, they take a few hits in the process. But it's a small price to pay for a life that means something.

Everyone was made to create something—to build a family, start a church, write a song, found an organization. And all of that begins with a decision, not a dream. It requires you to start, not imagine. You weren’t born to simply follow orders. You were created to be creative, to imagine new possibilities and explore uncharted territory. Whether you realize it or not. This goes for plumbers and entrepreneurs and baristas alike. The legacy you leave hinges on your ability to choose.

At the risk of sounding like Eminem, remember this: You only get one life. Don’t miss your chance to make it matter. Stop stalling with resolutions and dreams. And start something today—anything.

Keep starting. Every single day. Until you finally finish something. Then, start all over again.

Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville. His upcoming book, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, will be released this fall. He works for Adventures in Missions as the interim leader of Kingdom Dreams, a ministry that helps young people pursue their God-given passions. You can visit him online at goinswriter.com and follow him on Twitter (@jeffgoins).

135 Comments

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Tiffany Stuart commented…

Powerful reminder. Thank you, Jeff. I'm still dreaming, or better yet stalling. Time to write.

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Gina Holmes commented…

Fantastic article. I'll be looking out for the book!

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Andrewcardy commented…

I really enjoy this. My challenge is managing the momentum. To have a dream, be working on it and then let it transform into the career or the funded cause. I really enjoy your openness, and honestly, I love the saying "Every journey begins with a single step" but making that second step and then not being satisfying with starting, but the strategy towards completion. I wonder if it's just me, but I think my generation has just as hard time finishing something as we do starting. Not a copout, just a question.

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Benjengonegagain commented…

This is helpful. I look forward to seeing your book as well :) Question, as a wanna-be writer, how do you get your stuff "out there" and head closer to publication?

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Thaidiem commented…

hey Jeff, I would love to say "thank you so much" for what you have shared, which has touched me.

Diem Viet Nam friend.

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