The gap between idea and execution. (And how to bridge it.)

idea to execution | kourtney thomas life coach

Do you ever find yourself with a huge list of big dreams and ideas and a…smaller…list of executed dreams and ideas?

Uhhhh, yeah. Me too.

I have notebooks scribbled full of all kinds of cool things I want to do. All kinds of new and different and interesting ways I want to put work out, help others, shake shit up, conquer the world. From doing coaching differently, to my TED talk, to meetups and retreats, and about a million other things – I have ideas.

If you can get into the groove, it can be easy and fun to generate the ideas. I love to play with “what if?” What if I did this? If we did that together? If I took this and changed that? What if I could create more? Or pare it down to something simpler? There are endless ways to come up with all kinds of things we can do with our lives and businesses. Allowing ourselves to dream in this way is an essential pursuit.

But, I mean, most of the time the entire reason we’re dreaming these dreams and coming up with these ideas is because we want them in real life.

And keeping the running list going is great, but it’s even more fun when we cross an item off the list and bring it into reality.

And to be sure, not every idea or dream is suited for reality. Sometimes, they’re better suited for play, for inspiration, for paper. We can be judicious as we converge on what we decide to turn into tangible pursuit. But in truth, I believe that a higher majority of our dreams and ideas are totally executable, if we put in the work to give them life. And that right there is usually the biggest challenge – the layers of work required.

I’ve been working with a client who found herself in this spot, this struggle between having a ton of ideas, but not executing them. As we started working together, even more big dreams and ideas came up and out – pages and pages and documents filled with years’ worth of potential for her business. But nearly every one of those ideas was just that – an idea, not a reality.

As we chatted through these dreams and ideas on our coaching calls, it became apparent that there was a gap between the dreaming and the doing. Luckily, my client is full of confidence and belief in her talent and capabilities. But she was less full of confidence in her ability to bridge that gap with action. There was a lot of, “I know I can do this, but I’m not,” going on. And in fact, she had the self-awareness to understand the issue better than most:

“I know they’ll work but it’s too easy not to do them.”

Oof. Yeah. It is easy not to go after our dreams. It’s easier to let someone else execute an idea similar enough to our own that it’ll work, that it’ll apply to our lives, and we won’t have to put in the effort. In a way, this is basically saying it’s easy to tell ourselves that our ideas and dreams aren’t worthy of execution.

But the problem in this gap is when we know we’re meant for more. When we have some awareness that these ideas and dreams are real and need to be executed. So why do we resist that execution?

Well, why, indeed. Trendy, maybe, but digging up the why is the most effective means of getting to the root of what’s keeping us stuck. In the case of this client, I pushed her on it. She has big goals that she believes in, I definitely believe in them, and in her, so what’s the deal?

Turns out, it’s a basic human instinct for self-preservation. Her words:

“If I don’t do it, I can let my stories be true.”

The problem, again, is that we’re meant for more. And those stories we rely on, the stories we continually let define who we are, where we’re at, where we can and cannot go, aren’t necessarily true. Or – believing that they are keeps us so much less safe than we like to believe.

And that was a big revelation for my client. I’ll emphasize again she’s got incredible self-awareness, but that doesn’t always get us all the way down the road. It doesn’t always mean we can get it done ourselves, figure our way around or through our stories.

She needed accountability for her ideas.

Before anything else, we worked on the stories part. We worked on the why, we identified the resistance. (A third party is invaluable for this stuff. So often, we’ll let ourselves off the hook and avoid the real work. But everything changes when we add a partner into the mix.) That work provided a much better understanding of the gap between the ideas and the execution.

Armed with that insight, we could move on to the execution part. It became far easier to get through the big list and identify not only what was an idea that deserved action, but also to vet the ones that could just remain ideas and dreams. Ultimately, that provided more focus, more drive, and more targeted, productive effort toward planning and execution of some really significant tasks. Taking the actions became easier than not taking the actions. And in a very short couple of months, some of the biggest ideas on this woman’s list have been crossed off and brought into real life.

The lesson here is twofold.

One – you have to understand the gap. What’s keeping you from doing this? What’s keeping an idea an idea and not an accomplishment? What stories are at play that you need to dig up, confront, let go of, rewrite? Is it easier to dream and not do because it feels safe – and more importantly, is that even true?

And two – you have to build the bridge over that gap yourself. And it’s easier to understand how to do that when you get the reasons for the gap. At that point, it feels infinitely less like a slog to put in the effort, and it also feels worse to think that someone else might build the bridge first, so you can’t help but get excited to do the work yourself. But…you still have to do it and be accountable for that work, whether internally, or to a trusted partner. If you want this, you can’t let yourself off the hook for the actual execution part.

So, you know, go build your bridge. Cross it off the paper list and into real life. Answer the question of “what if?” Your ideas and dreams are just as worthy of execution as anyone else’s – that’s not a question.

The only remaining question is whether you’re willing to make it real and get the more you’re meant for.

To your executed ideas.


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