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Think big and act small. Leslie Koch
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« The Pope's Advice on Getting Sermons Written | Main | How to Get Any Project Up and Running »

From Pipe-Dream to Project

How often do you get a great idea for something, but somehow it never translates itself into action? Why is it that some things which you’ve always meant to do have to wait until you “can get around to it”? What is the missing ingredient that transforms something from being a pipe dream into a viable project?

That missing ingredient is the question: “What needs to happen now?” If we fail to ask that question then our pipe dream is doomed to remain a pipe dream forever. Once we have asked that question and answered it then we have identified the first steps to arriving at the fulfillment of our idea.

The full form of the question is: “If I am to achieve X by such-and-such a date, what needs to happen now?”

Note that it’s essential to have a deadline. If you ask yourself “What needs to happen now if I’m to achieve X sometime in the future, but it doesn’t matter when?” Then the answer is obviously “Nothing!”

In fact the first step to getting moving on any project we have been putting off is to give ourselves a deadline. The deadline forces us to think in terms of getting things moving.

I often coach people who are trying the make the jump from a full-time job which they hate into running their own business. They frequently keep putting the necessary decisions off for a whole variety of reasons. The solution is to ask the question: “If I am going to be working in my own business by the end of the year, what needs to happen now?” And then keep asking it!

A lot of the time, people get stuck over a project like this because they can’t really believe that they are going to be able to carry it through. Self-doubt causes paralysis. So it’s important to face up to the uncertainty by further refining the question: “If I am going to be 90% certain that I will be working full-time in my own business by the end of the year, what needs to happen now?”

This really starts to pin you down to action. Your pipe dream starts to become a real project.

You will note that the question “What needs to happen now?” is impersonal. Putting it this way is a lot less threatening than asking “What do I need to do now?”

This applies just as much to our daily tasks. Try out mentally the difference between -


“What do I need to do now?” “I need to write that report”, “I need to do the housework”, “I need to take some exercise”


“What needs to happen now?” “That report needs writing”, “The housework needs doing”, “My body needs some exercise”.

You will probably find that the second set of question and answers provokes significantly less resistance in your mind.


Identify a project that you have been meaning to get around to “sometime”. Give yourself a deadline by which you will have done it. What needs to happen now if you are to have project completed by the deadline?

Reader Comments (1)

or "What could I do to close the gap between how things are and how I want them to be?" followed by "How much do I believe in this as a goal?" and "How confident am I?"
August 9, 2012 at 12:25 | Unregistered Commentermichael

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