When Your Big Idea Can’t Happen Yet

This is a tough topic today. How do you keep a big goal alive, when you realize that there is absolutely no way you can pull together the time, money or resources to do it right now? Most project like this fade away for good. But I have a strategy to not only keep the goal alive and well, but to move it up on your timeline. You have what it takes to keep your idea fires alive and burning so you can reach your biggest goals.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, or iHeartRadio

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode:


Welcome to the Cara Brookins Show, this is where you’ll find all the tools you need to get unstuck and build a better life. I know what it feels like to need a friend to talk you through the hard stuff. From cleaning off your desk, to building a new desk, or even rebuilding your entire life from scratch, I’ll be here with you for every step. Let’s get moving and build exactly the life you want.

I’ve got a tough topic today. It’s something I’ve avoided talking about because I wish it weren’t true. But, if we avoid the stuff that happens to all of us, then we all end up feeling really alone and frustrated. So, let’s dive into the tough stuff today. 

I am an over-the-top optimist. You know that about me. I really, really like to talk about positive stuff. Because that’s now I naturally see things. But if I avoid today’s topic any longer, you’re going to end up feeling like things are working out better for other people than they are for you. That things are easier for other people or they have advantages you don’t. When really, we’re all in exactly this same place a lot more often than we admit.

So, what’s this thing we’d all rather pretend isn’t true?  

It’s the fact that sometimes you really want to do something, some big goal, but you can’t right now. period. You can’t. 

We can’t keep spreading this wishful idea that if we really, really want to do something, we can make it happen right now. We can build a house, or a business, we can learn to fly an airplane or graduate from college or whatever the heck our biggest dream project is right now. We’ve all heard, and even said a bunch of times: If you just want it badly enough, you can make it happen. But is that really true? 

Can wanting a thing make the resources to do it just appear? The time? The money? The supplies? No. Of course it can’t. Which is a massive problem for our big goals. And we have to talk about what that means. 

Let’s dig right into this problem. Which is really simple on the surface. Sometimes you can’t reach for your goal. Sometimes you do the math and no matter how hard you try, there is absolutely no way you can come up with the money to open your restaurant. Or buy the supplies to build your house. Sometimes, the answer, is No. The answer is no. This idea is not going to work out for you right now. And wanting it more, isn’t going to make the money appear. Wanting it more won’t give you the time or the pile of building materials or the skills to use all of it. We’ve all been in a spot like this. Wanting it more just ends up making you feel really bad.

When this happens, when a project makes us feel like a failure before we even lift a finger on it, what usually happens to that project? Do we usually keep it or throw it away? That’s right. We try to cheat and do both by throwing it…. A little further down the road. This idea of “Get that project out of my mind. I don’t want to think about it right now.” 

It feels bad to remind yourself that you can’t do this. But yet, you kind of hold it in the back of your mind thinking, “maybe I’ll do it someday,” Now and then you even pull it out. Test if it’s suddenly, magically possible now. Every time, coming to the same sad conclusion, smacking into the same big NO WAY, and boom, throw that project back down the road into someday land.  

I want to tell you though, there’s actually a way to hold on to these kinds of projects. There’s a way you can keep your idea alive and keep your momentum up, and actually keep working to make your biggest goal possible in the future, even if there is absolutely no way you can do that project right now.

And the best part is that the solution aligns perfectly with psychology, with how your already brain works. That’s exactly the kind of solution I’m always looking for. We’re not trying to change or fight against our own brain, because that’s always a losing battle. We’re just learning to use the way our brain is already set up. Before we get to the solution though, let’s take a close look at what this problem looks like in your life and then in your brain. Here’s how this starts.

You have this exciting new idea and you immediately brainstorm every possible scenario. Next, you try to get your hands on the materials, or learn the skills, maybe just find the time, come up with the money, or a combination of all of that, and, you realize that you just can’t. So what do you do? 

You push that project off your actual calendar and pencil it in on a day called ‘someday’.  “I can’t start that restaurant now, but I’ll do it someday. I can’t move my business or my education to the next level right now, but I’ll do it someday.” And we do this even though we’ve had a lot of experience with someday already, and we know how rare it is for someday to ever show back up on our calendar. You’ve seen the quote: Someday is not a day of the week.

Here’s where the problem grows though. The minute you move your project to someday, you stop reaching for it. You stop reaching for it. On one hand, it feels like it would be a waste of time to do anything with that project because you know you can’t reach the goal. You don’t have the things you need to do it, and you can’t get them.  But, on the other hand, you still want the results of that project. So, you’re stuck. You can’t start the project, and you can’t let the project go. If it sounds like you’re stuck in an endless loop, a catch-22, that’s because you are. 

This reminds me of a really unhealthy kind of relationship that we’ve all seen happen. One of those back-burner romances. You know what I mean? One person keeps saying they aren’t ready for a relationship ‘right now’ but instead of blocking the other person, walking away, they kind of keep feeding the idea in small little ways. Stringing the other person along. You know what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing. They’re keeping the possibility alive just in case. They aren’t committed in any real way to the other person, but they keep enough warm conversation going to keep this possibility open. They’re keeping that person simmering on the back burner.

Sound like a great idea? Hardly!

The likelihood of a relationship with this kind of start working out is right around zero percent. Because the back-burner person isn’t a priority. And the other person realizes this and isn’t going to keep giving them attention. What does this unfair relationship have to do with our project? 

Well ‘someday’ is the same as the back burner. 

That big project you put on the back burner for whatever reason is the same kind of thing, it isn’t a priority either, and the likelihood of a day suddenly just arriving where everything lines up to start things up and set it all in motion is also around zero percent.

But wait, I promised you some psychology to go with this, so here it is. And it’s really cool stuff. 

The reason we use terms like ‘move that to the back burner’ or ‘set that project aside’ as though we are actually moving this imaginary project—that only exists in our head—from one physical spot to another, is because that’s what’s actually happening inside our brain. It sounds weird, but it’s true. It goes like this.

When you have a new idea, it lights up a tiny spot in the creative part of your brain. Picture it like you’re lighting the base of a tree on fire. And as you think about that idea, new ideas light up, setting the bottom branches of the tree on fire, which makes you have even more ideas and more and more branches running spreading out.

With every new idea about this project that you have, a new series of branches lights up.And all of these idea branches connect and expand on your original idea. Because ideas crate more ideas.

That’s what it looks like in your brain. And here’s what it feels like when that is happening. 

A great idea hits, and you say: Hey, I could do this! (Base of the tree lights up)

And then a second later, you say: Oh, and then we could also do this… and then this… and this…. And what about this! (This is more branches firing up and exciting the area around them. Creating a perfect environment in your mind for new creative ideas to ignite.) 

This kind of brainstorm isn’t imaginary, we can actually see it in a brain scan. That’s why a new idea brings so much creativity and why it feels so exciting. And that’s also why, when you try to describe that same idea to someone else it’s usually a big letdown. You want them to be as excited as you are, but for them it’s just a warm spot in their head, not a fire. That’s a kinda cool idea, they say. But they aren’t feeling the same Ah-ha series of new ideas that you did. Not until you find exactly the right way to describe it that sparks a little fire at the base of a tree in their brain. The second you do that, boom! They are right there with you, tossing out ideas as new branches catch fire. It’s a really amazing process, isn’t it.

Ok. Now that we understand what that big idea moment is like in our brain, let’s go back to what happens when you realize that it’s a no-go. This project can’t happen right now. You move that project launch from next Wednesday to next someday. Your brain actually takes that entire idea tree away from the creative spot in your brain and moves it to a different physical spot on the opposite side of your brain. A spot that just stores things. It keeps the same shape with all the various branches. It still looks like a tree. But instead of being alive with fire, it’s just the silhouette of a cold tree now. No fire. It’s no longer setting off new fires.

Now it’s just sitting there with a label: Open my restaurant. Or Climb Mt Everest. Now and then you mention it to your mom or whatever. Try to keep it simmering on the back burner. But it’s not the same. It’s not in the creative part of your brain anymore. And it doesn’t feel exciting. Reviving it someday, even if the conditions are eventually perfectly 100% right, is going to be really tough. You’ll have to work hard to move that idea tree back to that other side of your brain. Light the fire again. Find your momentum. Sounds pretty depressing, doesn’t it.

As promised, I’ve got a better solution for you. Here’s a way to not only keep this project on the front burner, but very quickly get it to a place where you can actually pursue it as your next big goal. Are you ready for the answers? 

. . .

Before we dig into those details, we’re going to take a short break.

Do you have an idea that you just haven’t been able to get off the ground? Or maybe you worked on it for a while and then got stuck? And even though you still love the idea—can’t get it out of your head, you just have no idea how to get unstuck. 

If you could *just* take all the time you spent putting off a project, and put that time into doing the work to reach your target it would change everything. Take the distractions, the extra coffee breaks, TikTok videos, and Netflix binges and instead spend all those hours, weeks, sometimes years making real progress toward your goal. 

If procrastination has been holding you back, my course Build Something can help.  

I’ve put EVERY SINGLE THING you need to build your ridiculously big project into Build Something. All the strategies, tactics, and methods I used (and still use) to successfully turn my big ideas into real-life projects and finish them. #BuildSomething will teach you how to: plan your projects, get started, take action, actually do the work, work through the hard parts, and stay motivated until you reach your goal. 

Go to carabrookins.com/buildsomething/ for all the tools you need for this project. The one after that. And the one after that. And—you get the idea. That’s carabrookins.com/buildsomething/

This is your chance to get unstuck and start the project of your dreams so you can #BuildSomething you’re proud of.

. . .

And now, back to the show. 

Now the first step to keeping your project boiling on the front burner. First, you have to commit to the project. It’s not a maybe-someday project. It’s not something you’re willing to let go. It’s the real deal and even though you know you don’t have the resources to get to the end, you are going to commit to doing it and starting right now. Committing means you invest some real time, energy, and money into this project right now. Because the more skin we have in the game, the more we value it. 

Just because you can’t do this entire project right now, doesn’t mean you can’t do a tiny part. 

Go buy something right now, today, that you need to do this project. Opening a restaurant? Buy a top quality chef knife. Buy some fabric swatches for your table cloth options. Building a House? Buy the kitchen faucet, or the bedroom light fixture. Make or buy the quilt for your future bedroom, or some art that will hang in your den. If you don’t have much money or space to store things, then put pictures of very specific items on a vision board and invest a pile of time and energy into the project. Plan every aspect of your new business. Take physical actions like drawing and writing your details. This is essential. But how is this different than a back burner project?

These actions keep your idea fire alive and keep it in the creative, problem solving area of your brain. This isn’t simmering on the back burner, it’s boiling up front. You’re not just marking time, you’re actually moving the project forward with steps that will make a real difference. You’ll actually use that chef knife, put those business plans into action, hang that light in your new dining room one day.

Continuing to take actions on a dream project keeps it in the active, creative part of your brain where you will keep looking for ways to make the full project happen even sooner. Even the fact that you’re talking about it and that people are seeing the actions you’re taking can make this happen sooner for you. Maybe you’ll form a partnership with someone you talk to, or connect with just the right people who can help you move this along. These aren’t idle actions. You’re not just going through the motions. You’re starting the project.

What happens a lot of times, is that taking these first steps will help you see some kind of supporting project that you can do right now to make the big dream possible sooner.

Here’s what I mean. A lot of people don’t realize this, but I was facing this exact situation when I built my house. I had a huge goal and I realized it wasn’t possible for me with what I had available. The goal, well it was NOT building a house. That was never my goal at all. Not in the beginning. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. My goal was to quit my job as a programmer and work full time on my own business as a writer. But it wasn’t possible.

I didn’t have a way to instantly make money as a writer—it was way too risky as a single mom to quit my job, start writing, and just cross my fingers that I could make it work. Our bills were really high, we were losing our house and I had no idea where we were going to live. We’d also been through some really tough things and we needed to spend some time together. To just get our heads in a better space.

And if I was just writing all the time, we weren’t going to have that time together. That meant, we needed a house. And. We needed a project.  We needed a house. And. We needed a project. Mix in a brand-new website called YouTube. And poof, I bet you can see what happened there, an idea fire was lit. And it did its magic. 

The idea of building a house was born. It was one massive project I could do right away, that would support and move me closer to the next project, the one I really wanted to do. How did building a house help me become a full-time writer? 

Well, if I could lower our monthly bills, and have a great place to work at home, then I could quit my software programming job sooner and survive on a full-time writing business. It was a great solution to multiple problems.

One warning though, because another thing that can kill your original idea is taking on another completely different big idea. That new idea—in my case the house—can in a way outshine the first idea until it vanishes. Sure, I’d still end up with a house, but if I didn’t set that house project up right, I would lose the thing I started that for in the first place. The key here, is focus.

As soon as you start to work on any kind of supporting project, keep checking to make sure it’s actually leading you there. Make sure it’s actually feeding the first goal. Keeping the fire burning. And what I mean by that is to keep spending time, money, and energy on that big goal so it stays the number one priority. This sounds like a lot to keep up with at once, but it’s really pretty simple as long as one goal is set up to support the next one. 

Ok, now back to the primary and secondary goals. How did I make sure that building a house supported a writing career? It was easier than you might think. 

One of the ways I did this was to make sure one of the rooms I built in my house was a library. I was creating a real space for that future career. And I thought of every aspect of the house in how it related to books and my library. Later when my daughter Hope was helping me decorate the other rooms in the house, every single room ended up with some kind of a book theme. Barely noticeable in some rooms all the way to completely papering the walls with book pages in one room. You can see the focus here, right? 

That primary goal was the one I constantly invested my time, energy and money into, even when I was knee deep in the supporting project.

I finished that initial supporting goal when I finished the house. And then I had the space and the set-up to move directly into my next goal. And while I never in a million years expected to write a book about building the house, the two projects ended up coming together in that really cool and unexpected way. I made the writing goal happen next. I quit my job to write and speak full time. In fact, I’m recording this podcast right now from that library in the house we built.

I wanted it that badly, and I made it happen.

No, I didn’t do it right away. And that means it didn’t look the way I thought it would in the beginning, the first moment I conceived of the idea that I wanted to be a fulltime writer. I wanted it to happen the easy, JK Rowling way. Just write a global bestseller that would open every door.

Instead, I had to do that supporting project first. And it was unbelievably hard work. But I did it. And so can you.

Maybe you’ll need to go for that promotion in your current job and stay there a while to build the income or credibility to start up your own company. But when you know it’s taking you closer to YOUR big goal and you’re taking direct steps in small ways to build it, it’s a lot easier to do, and to take in the skills and make the connections that are contributing to your big idea. Your master plan.

And after you achieve your goal, you’ll have this much greater sense of satisfaction too, because you’ll know that you hit this massive wall that said very clearly your goal was in no way possible for you right then. But you found a way to do it anyhow. 

Some of you are feeling too overwhelmed right now to take on a primary or a secondary goal. And if that’s you, feeling too paralyzed to move, or maybe so overwhelmed with your to-do list that you don’t even know what the big goal even is anymore. Well, that means its time to pause, and wrap up some things in your space by having a power day. This is something I do almost every month and it keeps me on track with a clear mind. If you haven’t done one yet, I have a free guide on my website to get you moving. Go now to CaraBrookins dot com and select Powerday for a download. Again, it’s 100% free and 100% the way to get rid of your overwhelm. If you want to learn a little more about a Powerday, scroll back and listen to last week’s episode for a detailed description.

Imagine what that’s going to feel like. When you get a no, and you keep the dream alive until you yourself create a yes, the results will be so much sweeter. And you’ll feel so much happier with the goal, and also more confident about reaching forward and tackling the next big goal. 

In the beginning, your problem: that impossible project, feels so much bigger than you. But in the end, you’ll see and everyone around you will see, your family, friends, even strangers, will all see that when you decide to keep your focus on your impossible goal, it can become possible, even if the timeline is slow, hard work.

You’re already a step closer to your goal just by understanding more about how to light idea fires and keep them alive and burning. Take the next step. And then figure out the one after that. 

Even if there’s a massive wall in your way today, set yourself up to build something big.

And make sure you stop by again next week, same time same place to talk about why you feel like your falling further behind every year and how you can banish that feeling for good. Because it’s simply never too late to reach for your biggest goals. 

Thanks for hanging out with me today, head over to carabrookins.com for more (free) tools, and we should really connect on social media too. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.