Have you ever dreamed of creating something big, lasting and important? Maybe it’s a novel, a painting, an invention or a charity. It could be any number of things, but they have this in common: They are personally meaningful rather than being directed by an outside force; they have a large structure that is unclear at first; and they require long-term focus and effort to complete.
In my book I call these cherished, uncompleted creations Big Things. It has always been hard to finish Big Things—and even start them—because they usually don’t have an outside deadline. Therefore, as philosophers and social scientists have noted, we pass off the heavy lifting to our “future selves,” so that our present selves need not bother about it. But the future never arrives, and we continue to procrastinate—and we continue to ask ourselves: Why can’t I finish my project?
This can take a psychic toll, as our idea of ourselves collides with reality.
We may take refuge in fantasies of having already completed our project and receiving widespread adulation for it. This feeds into a narcissistic impulse rather than the genuine creative energy that motivated the project in the first place.
It has always been immensely hard to start and complete a Big Thing. We must continually forge ahead amid disappointments and distractions, and the finished result is never as good as it was in our head.
But right now—in an era of technological profusion—it is harder than ever to work on a project with a long arc. And, as I learned firsthand, that makes these kinds of projects more important than ever.
I wish you all success completing your Big Thing, and I hope my BIG THING can be a motivating force on your journey towards finishing it.