How to have patience with your “next big idea” that refuses to show up

Young man waiting for phone call

Waiting for your idea to come calling? How’s that working for you?

Some day it’ll come along, that idea I love? Right?

Around February 1 each year, my daughter Rosie begins the countdown for Christmas.

You saw that right, not the countdown for Valentine’s Day, or Easter, or 4th of July, but Christmas.

She loves the holiday, and talks about it all year long.

She creates a map of days and puts it on her wall. She crosses numbers off one by one. For eleven months.

In July, she watches YouTube tutorials on how to draw Santa and Elf on the Shelf.

I draw the line at listening to Christmas Carols. I am not listening to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer when it is 118 degrees outside (I am not even making that temperature up for dramatic effect — that was our actual temperature here in the desert last week).

The comfort in looking forward to something big

I get her excitement. We all love the feeling when we are involved in a project that is big, juicy and dramatic. It is fun to find The Next Big Thing. When asked what we are up to, instead of saying:

“Well, you know, I continue to do the same thing I have been doing for the past 10 years. I have not become more creative, I have not developed new mastery, I simply get up, with slight resignation, and continue on the same path to mediocrity. What are you up to?”

Rather, we want to holler:

“I am working on my new book and it is going to change the world!”

“I have discovered the missing link to the Internet, and am busy building it with a world-class team who will all become millionaires!”

“I have a brand new career, and have never felt more alive!”

Stop jonesing, start relaxing

When you are hollering something in the latter category, you feel filled with verve and glee.

When you are hearing something in the latter category, while you are still in the former category (marching slowly to mediocrity and boredom, anyone? Anyone?), you may silently wish the verve-filled message deliverer would step on a banana peel on her way out of the room.

Waiting for The Next Big Thing is exhausting. And frustrating. And frankly, a waste of time.

Let’s get busy priming the pump for the idea to arrive. Here’s how:

How to make space for a new idea

Test some things you think you want to do

If you haven’t yet landed on your “next big thing,” why don’t you try out some ideas? You could shadow someone for a day that is working in a position you are interested in. If you think you want to speak but are not sure you will like it, gather a group of 10 friends in your living room and talk about an exciting topic. If you think you want to add a new stream of income to your business, but are not sure it will work, create and launch a mini-product. All of these tests will give you real data to either keep moving forward and do more of it, to cross the idea off the list because you don’t enjoy it, or to send you on a quest to do some more tests.

Make a list of “what I don’t want”

All things come down to dating metaphors, right? When I was single, I remember each time a man walked into a room, I would think “Are you my future husband?” It was horrible and exhausting. I did two things to get out of this soul-sucking cycle: 1) I made a list of what I did NOT want in a partner, then I 2) gave up on trying to find one at all and did whatever the heck I wanted that looked fun. That led me to an epic trip to Peru with my friend Peter, which led me to an epic trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, which led me inside a tipi, where you heard the story of how I bumped into a quiet, handsome Navajo who became my husband. 🙂 You can apply this method to your search for a big, new idea. Make a list of all the things that you know you do NOT want to do anymore, then start to pursue anything and everything that tickles your fancy. Your exploration of new ideas may lead you in radically interesting directions.

Find ways to love up and serve the heck out of your current clients

If you have gotten tired of your current work, is there a way you can breathe new life into it? Can you learn a new skill? Can you spend more time (not less) thinking about how you could help your current clients? Sometimes we get so stuck in our patterns of service that we forget to acknowledge the power and beauty in our current work. I have fallen deeper in love with my clients as I have been exploring new and different ways to work.

Tend to your health and well-being

Inspiration looks for healthy and fertile ground. If you are exhausted, making poor choices about food, sitting all day in front of your computer, then going home and sitting in front of Netflix, it may be time to move your bootie. When you eat and sleep right and exercise, dopamine flows and you think more clearly. Instead of spending 8 hours on the weekend reading blog posts of other people who appear to have their lives together, hop on your bike, or a trail, and listen to your own heart beat.

Take the road less traveled

New ideas favor discomfort. Go to a totally different kind of networking event than you normally attend. Go to a different cafe for your morning coffee. Maybe even get a different drink! Talk to the person next to you on the airplane, instead of burying yourself in a book. Visit a new neighborhood. Talk to the neighbor that everyone avoids.

Ask for it, then let go

In whatever way you get quiet and communicate to the broader universe, ask for what you want. Then let go of the outcome.

“Hey Universe, I feel like I am meant to do some big, important work. Right now I don’t know what that is. I would love to find out. I want to be of service. I want to make an impact on the world. I am ready for what you have in store for me, so please send it at your earliest convenience. Thanks!”

Enjoy the journey!

Reader Interactions


  1. Derrick Kwa says

    Love this. “Waiting for The Next Big Thing is exhausting. And frustrating. And frankly, a waste of time.” Too many people sit around waiting for inspiration to strike – and I love that you’re pushing for taking action. One other thing that I’d add would be to pay attention (to surroundings, people around you, etc). Inspiration can come from anywhere. That, and to make it a habit to come up with ideas regularly – even if they’re bad ones. Sometimes the best ideas are iterations of bad ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *