Your challenge is this: the next time you find yourself faced with an idea — wondering “what if?” — go ahead and imagine what might happen if someone else approached you with the same idea, in its final form. Imagine them showing you exactly what you were going to do. How might you react? Would you be jealous? Frustrated with yourself? Is the feeling of seeing someone else build your idea enough to motivate you to carry the idea forward yourself?
Finding the motivation to see our creative ideas come to fruition can often be daunting, particularly when the idea is something we’ve never tried before. But if we can change our perspective and imagine a world where someone else took the risk, and what might happen when they do, that can be just enough to get us moving on the idea. Enough to take a small risk, or plan out next steps, anything to push the idea toward reality.
Imagining the idea as belonging to someone else also frees us up to envision how they might create it differently. Maybe they have more resources available than we do, in which case we can get a signal for what things we might need in order to really push the idea through. Or maybe the person we envision moving the idea forward does something more bold than we’d be comfortable with. Seeing the idea come to fruition — and whether or not it’s successful in our eyes — might be enough to help motivate us to see it through, and it also helps us better understand the potential of our idea.
Now think of that solution this other person showed you. What do you think of it?
If you find it interesting, but otherwise useless, that’s a good sign the idea needs more thought and attention to make it useful.
If it’s something you would cherish or enjoy and really feel connected to, that’s a good sign the idea is worthwhile.
If the idea is something that you, even alone, would honestly be interested in—even if it came from another person—at least then you know that pursuing the idea can do something for yourself. That alone can be fulfilling, but it’s also likely that it will be appealing to others too.
If you struggle to imagine anyone else coming up with your idea, an easy way to see what it might be like is to ask a friend to present the idea to you. Ask them to present it as though they had come up with the idea in the first place and followed it through, to make it a reality. Not only will doing so help you envision what the idea might feel like in reality, it can also help spur a new understanding of the idea itself, as your friend is likely to add their own twists and perspectives to it when they present it to you.
More often than not, we believe that ideas are ours, unique to us, and that imagining them coming from anyone else can feel like a betrayal. That isn’t true, and sounds silly when we think of it that way, but the notion of our unique ideas coming from anyone else can be just enough to block us from moving them through the idea stage to the execution one.
As a result: we sit by idly daydreaming about what could be, what we might be able to accomplish, or whether or not our ideas are worthwhile. But imagining someone else coming up with and executing on your idea first can help overcome that initial stage of stickiness.