Actually I think Art lies in both directions – the broad strokes, big picture but on the other hand the minute examination of the apparently mundane. Seeing the whole world in a grain of sand, that kind of thing. ~Peter Hammill
What is your big picture? What are your dreams and aspirations? And how do you move resolutely towards them?
Do you always have a clear big picture? Or do you struggle to maintain a coherent image of where you would like to go?
And what about the many small details and parts that make up any big picture?
Do you frequently get caught up in the micro details and end up frustrated? Or do you go through the many small details like a breeze?
Here are a few ideas about the constant struggle and the possible resolution between the big picture and the many details and parts that make it up:
The Big Picture vs. the Many Small Details
Sometimes a small detail, such as more transparent pricing or a friendlier staff, gave us our edge. ~ Sir. Richard Branson.
Sir Richard Branson provides the example of Innocent, the British smoothie company as an example of the integration of the big picture with the small details.
The company’s big picture or mission is to provide healthy smoothies in a fun way and making the planet a little better. Additionally, the company makes sure that the big picture is addressed by having the right structure, choosing the right team and by building relationships.
In the spirit of innovation and freshness, the company also prides itself for checking even the tiniest details like the lids on their bottles. The lids list the “enjoy by” date and not the “use by” date.
By choosing to keep the big picture and purpose clear and taking action on the small details, Innocent has developed quite a smoothie fan following.
Some of you may love big picture thinking. You may have no problem grasping the entire idea in your mind. Imagine that you run across someone you know in an elevator and they ask you: “what are your big goals and where would you like to be in the long run?”
What would your answer be? Would you struggle to find words? Or would you reply immediately in a phrase or in a couple of sentences where you would like to be at?
Going a little deeper, if someone asked you: “why do you do what you do?”
What would your answer be? Usually we have to be very clear about our intentions if we were to answer that question without a shred of doubt.
Now let us imagine your have a friend who knows your big picture: writing and self-publishing a fictional e-book that people will enjoy reading. If they asked you what were all the small details that went into writing, formatting and putting your work out there? Would you have a clear step-by-step plan outlined for your friend?
Perhaps you are not very clear about the details yourself and you are still in the thinking mode? Some of us have a dream and a big picture but do not have a grasp on the many little details.
Too many small details may confuse and overwhelm you.
It may be a good idea to become aware of your big picture and all the small details that make it up. You might be having a problem grasping either one of them or you might be all right thinking about both of them at the same time.
Action tips: Intentional focus on the big picture and action towards the details
1. Take a few minutes to think and write out your intentions towards your big picture or goal. Keep the end of the desire or big goal in mind as you write out your description.
Now this can be done with several big goals but it is best to begin with the most important one.
Make the process simple and fun to do!
2. Now list what are the different parts or projects that the big picture can be broken up into. You may not have the information to fill out all the details but list as many as you can.
This is the information gathering stage. The more complete your list of projects, the better it is. If there are gaps, you may want to research the topic to fill in the gaps of information instead of assuming one way or the other.
3. Now divide each project into sub-projects and the sub-projects into a list of actionable tasks. The question to ask: What are the smallest little details or actions that make up your sub-projects?
For example, if you want to paint or learn a musical instrument and become a professional (big picture), you may begin by dividing that goal into projects and sub-projects. The projects may look like: Research, Procurement, Learning and Understanding, Areas to practice and Networking.
Divide each of the projects into sub-projects if possible. For example: Learning can be broken down into self-study and studying from a mentor or teacher.
4. After you have outlined your big picture and the many details that make up the picture, you want to move forward on some of the projects and sub-projects involved. The projects should be broken down into actionable items. Schedule the actionable items and block out a certain period of time for that action.
5. If you are getting overwhelmed, make the action very small and easily achievable. For example, set the timer for 15 minutes and paint for that length of time. Rinse, lather and repeat till it becomes a habit. Set up the little tasks such that it is impossible for you to fail. Taking small steps is better than freezing up!
6. The key is to move forward or gain momentum in the different projects that make up the big picture. You can set up motivational cues that constantly remind you of the big picture and the small actionable tasks.
For motivational cues, you can use stick-it notes or have a reminder on your phone to remind you and motivate you. You can have a computer screen saver or background that reminds and inspires you towards your big picture. Be creative!
7. Reward yourself when you stick to your tasks and make it enjoyable to pursue your big picture. After all, it is all about making the journey fun. The ideal scenario is to hold your big picture in your intentional focus while taking consistent and inspired action on the small details and parts that make up the picture.
Keep in mind that over-scheduling and getting overwhelmed is very easy in the initial stages. Take small steps and leave a lot of room for delays and things that come up unexpectedly. I remind myself that a little progress towards my major projects is better than no progress.
You will need to regularly practice and take the little actions. Getting a habit of doing repeated tasks that you enjoy immensely is one of the keys to success.
Consonance between the Big Picture and the Small Details
Details create the big picture. ~Sanford I. Weill
Remember that there are different strokes for different folks. Some like big picture thinking, while others like working with small details and parts. You will gradually have to make peace with both to achieve your dreams.
Have you met anyone who says that have a particular dream but their day-to-day actions and their attention to small details are not in consonance with that dream?
For example, if I told you that I loved to sketch landscapes and would like to become a freelancer. But you notice that I do not have any habits or small actions that support that intention. You may think that there may be some discord there.
It is a good idea to look at your big picture and how you spend your time and evaluate your habits. If your current day-to-day actions and habits do not support the big picture, then it becomes impossible to accomplish.
This may sound like a no brainer to you. But you may be surprised at how many people get overwhelmed at this stage and are unable to connect their big picture with the small details and actions that they do on a daily basis.
Consonance between your big picture and the small details is essential. And the lack of consonance may cause significant cognitive dissonance or what is called “Ideal vs. reality” conflict.
How to Measure Progress: Moving Forward Towards the Big Picture vs. Getting Caught up in the Details
“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” ― Georgia O’Keeffe
Ironically the little details that make up the big picture are also the places where people get stuck and do not experience any forward momentum. Do not allow yourself to get enmeshed in the small little details to the point that you get stuck.
Small details do matter but if they are stopping your progress, it is time to move on. The key to moving forward with the little daily actions and details is decisiveness with choice. There is scientific research that excessive choice paralyzes and also makes people less happy.
If there are 20 soups to choose from, you may find it difficult to select between them. And when you do choose one, the happiness level that you experience is reduced because you are thinking of the ones that you did not pick. In the same way, small details can overwhelm you when the choice is extensive.
If you need to pick primary colors for your website and there are too many choices, making the correct decision can be paralyzing. When confronted with too many small decisions with too much choice, many people simply give up. Avoid paralysis by narrowing choice and becoming decisive.
Your process may look like:
Narrow the choices effectively and quickly.
Be decisive and choose.
As you decide quickly, you will get to test and experiment if the new choice is effective. If it is not, you can decide to improvise and change directions.
And finally, it is important to not miss the forest for the trees. It is important to have a clear image of the forest or the big picture as you move forward.
But you also need to remind yourself that the forest is made up of individual trees or the small actions and details.
We will need to bring consonance back between the forest and the trees and avoid neglecting one for the other.
What about you? Do you have problems imagining your big picture? Or do you get overwhelmed with all the many little details that make up the whole? Please leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you!
Photo Credit: echerries via Compfight
I can see a really big forest. My dreams’ forest where I create my perfect life. I also can see little steps that I have to get to be closer to my goal, but that’s all actually… I don’t know what to do next – and even if I do, it doesn’t take too much time for me to give it up…
Thank you for this article! I will try it out, how it works to me and how long I can bear without giving up…
Harish Kumar says
Thanks for your comment!
I think the key is to start very small and build habits that support your dreams. I can totally relate to your comment because I have been there in the past and in some cases, I still have the same issues. The difficult part of going for your dreams is maintaining and inspiring yourself to take the little actions.
There is research suggesting that very small steps and changing the context or environment are the most effective ways of changing habits. You may need to ask: what are the habits and actions that will support your dreams and big picture? And begin taking those actions till they become second nature. I think we have an inclination to begin big and we hope that big leaps and actions are sustainable but in reality it is very difficult to maintain a big leap.
For example, if someone wants to become a writer and decides for sure that they want to write, how should they proceed? They get so inspired that they want to write for several hours a day. And they may be successful for a little while but very quickly, the habit becomes unsustainable and something comes up and they stop. If they decided to write for 5 to 15 minutes a day or whenever they get the chance, that habit is more doable. Even if something comes up, devoting 15 minutes is possible but devoting several hours may become impossible. Small steps also make sure that people do not get overwhelmed. Overwhelm is a major reason of not being able to continue with dreams and goals.
If you are having trouble determining what to do next, you may have to gather more information about your subject and make the actions more specific. If your plans or projects are too general and broad, it may become difficult to take action. For example, the goal “learn to write better” is too general. However, spending 30 minutes reading a particular book or taking a course to write is far more specific.
Hope this helps,
[…] I think this is the creative aspect of not losing the forest for the trees or vice versa. You need to dive into the details but every so often you need to step back and look at the big picture. Read more about that here. […]