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How I'm learning to not get overwhelmed by infinite opportunities

Photo credit: ehpien


Every day I have loads of fresh ideas.

If you're anything like me, you'll have them too.

We meet tons of people, read thousands of words, watch dozens of video clips, enjoy plenty of conversations, and get to all kinds of places.

Every day we discover new possibilities.

We put long established concepts alongside new ones and bang, there's another option to pursue.

We help people. They help us. More opportunities emerge.

We're in the pub and see a poster, a beer mat, someone's t-shirt, and whey hey....there's another creative explosion!

For me, it's when I go for a run, listen to a tune, race my six year old son down a mountain on a bike, make some biscuits, get threatened by yobs whilst out filming, or ride the tram through Blackpool illuminations.

It's always the same: ideas, possibilities, creative combinations, business opportunities. They gang up on us, exciting us, frustrating us, helping us feel alive, optimistic, successful, or sometimes like a loser, a failure, on and on.

I write a lot of this stuff down, and as if by magic, more ideas appear.

Some of these are the seeds of what's needed to solve big problems.

They could be the start of a great TV series, another book, or an elaborate water garden. Or perhaps there's enough there to start a movement that'll help us change the way we live, treat each other and our planet better, or at least make us loads of cash, and we could use that money to do good, in a big way.

The trouble with all these ideas is there's only so much time in each day, each week, each year.

An idea is an idea, nothing more.

In fact, it's powerless without action. And there's the problem.

All these ideas, constantly appearing, always reshaping, one after the other - forever!, need taming. They need structuring. Chunking down, whipping into shape, and putting into action.

Well there's no way any human being could ever act on even a tiny fraction, or do justice to the potential scale and possibilities of more than just a few.

So you know what? Personally, I'm finally going to accept that fact. I'm stopping feeling guilty. I quit thinking I'm a failure cos I can't do something with ALL this stuff. I'm driving away the urge to start yet another project that'll last about a week and then flop on its fat arse unfinished with all the other couch potatoes that went before it.

Enough of that.

I have one life on this planet and I'm accepting my DNA.

I own it! I am what I am. I'm an ideas man! That's me. I can't help it. Can't turn it off.

But here's one of the keys that's helping me get control and it will work for anyone:

I have a definite major purpose for my life, and everything I choose to do, will in some way or other, serve that major purpose.

I'm not talking about being completely serious and focused twenty four seven. I'm not capable of doing that even for a couple of hours! Nor do I want to bore everyone to tears, with no time for spontaneity, fun, or a curry and six pints down the Dog and Ferret with my mates. Not at all. But generally, what I'm doing is building my life with a very clear eye on an overall purpose and sense of meaning about what I'm about and what I hope to do with this life.

So how I handle these constant, overwhelming ideas and opportunities (yes of course, they're all brilliant!) is to ask myself "how do they serve that definite, major purpose?".

The "trick" of writing stuff down.

I reckon the trick, if the idea is good, even if it doesn't fit my overall purpose, is to write it down, capture it in some way. Then let it go out of our head. After all, it's written in the book if we should find it does serve some purpose for us later.

This way, we'll pick just a few good ideas to run with, a manageable, actionable number, and determine what can be done to make them grow and propel us toward the next stage of our bigger plan.

That's it. Simple.

So those amazing ideas, that are fantastic, potentially lucrative, and exciting, are no longer a distraction, and we don't feel guilty for not maximising them all. Why? Because we're on a mission. We've a big plan. All our energy is focused toward that. Good ideas, even great ones, can be parked if they don't serve this sense of meaning and focus we've defined, which comes from our definite major purpose, and being clear about where we want to be.

That's it. Plain and simple.

That's how I'm learning to not get overwhelmed by infinite possibilities...and so are you!

Thanks very much for reading this post. I hope you found it useful. I'd love to hear what you think. How do you stop yourself running away with all your brilliant ideas? How do you decide what's important and worth doing? How do you discover your definite major purpose? See you in the comments. Much love, Ian.

Your comments:

ali says:
20/10/2011 04:39:01

brilliant. just what i needed to read right now. thank you :) totally overwhelmed. an over active brain, imagination and exposure = endless awesome possibilities. how to narrow it down, where to start?! so many 'hats' that fit but only one head..... exhausting! thank you for your insight :)
Wendym says:
15/10/2009 11:21:17

I often awake with many thoughts & passions in my head. I keep a pen and pad be my side at all times. My mind works even when I am asleep...many a morning I open my eyes to a full poem or business issue resolved. The human brain is an amazing muscle that continues amaze me. It is said by some that we only use about 10% of our actual brain power. I have challenged this by teaching myself to go from being left handed to right handed...the joys of being ambidextrous! I am often inspired creatively for my stories and poems and my business ideas and my approach to my clients by any number of external muses that inspire my 5 senses. I am often overwhelmed with what I call...my manic mind ménage. I write down as many as I can and if any of the barrage of ideas get away I know that I will have many more to follow. I may not work them all but I love that the ideas flow freely and I pray they never stop. I have found that making sure I have my pen and notepad with me for a quick jot down should anything hit me. I am able to maintain my balance this way….to love…laugh…live on my journey of life. Thank you for an interesting article and for sharing your ideas with the world. Together we can all contribute to a better tomorrow. Be well my friend and keep writing as I do enjoy reading your thoughts and passions. Your Friend Wendym
lampdigital says:
23/09/2009 23:01:07

Interesting. I have a book of ideas; every time I think of something, I write it down. Only thing is, when I revisit it, I realise how many great ideas there are that I haven't followed through on. If only it was 26/7 instead of 24/7...


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  • Ian AspinLocation: Lancaster Lake District, UK
  • Bio: I’m passionate about my work:TV journalist, producer, presenter, business ideas person. I care about: family, friends, helping people, finding meaning, running