If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They Simply Aren’t Big Enough.

"If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough." | Quote Graphic

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”

This bold quote, attributed to both former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, points to the importance of setting wildly ambitious goals that seem out of reach. In this article, we’ll explore the significance behind this sentiment and how to put it into practice by cultivating big, scary dreams.

The Meaning Behind the Quote, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.” 

At its core, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough” advocates dreaming without limits or modesty. According to this view, we should give our boldest, most ambitious visions free rein when setting goals rather than automatically self-censoring and rendering our dreams smaller and “realistic.”  

Big, seemingly outlandish dreams push us outside our comfort zones and spur personal growth and fulfillment in a way that easily achievable goals do not. Dreams that don’t scare us fail to capture our full human potential. The size and scope of our dreams should exceed our current abilities and resources. Pursuing such bold dreams builds confidence and uncovers strengths we didn’t know we possessed.  

Why Some People Dream Small

If crafting scary, “impossible” dreams is so beneficial, why do so many of us play it small, sticking to goals we know we can securely attain?

Fear of failure leads many people to set safe, moderate goals. Past setbacks on big dreams or a fixed mindset have conditioned them to view ambitious goals as impossible pipe dreams. Afraid of coming across as foolishly naive or getting “ahead” of themselves, they aim low, dreaming up goals they’re absolutely sure of achieving rather than stretching themselves.

Others lack the confidence needed to articulate big dreams and believe in their capability to achieve them. It’s hard to clearly visualize wild success when you have no model for it based on experience. Some also just don’t want to rock the boat and prefer to stick to well-worn life paths.

How to Cultivate Big Dreams

Decorative Image "Dream big and dare to fail."

Luckily, it is possible to cultivate new habits of dreaming big and setting scary, ambitious goals. Here are some tips:

  1. Spend time genuinely reflecting on your passions, gifts, and sources of energy. Imagine possibilities for your future without self-censorship. 
  2. Be specific in articulating and detailing your most outrageous dream – make it vivid and concrete.
  3. Align your big dream to your deeply-held values and overall sense of purpose for added motivation and meaning. 
  4. Research figures throughout history who faced and achieved similar bold, ambitious feats. 
  5. Reframe the sensations of fear and discomfort as excitement, eagerness, and exhilaration – all fuel to pursue your big goal.

Planning Big Goals Smartly 

Conjuring up big dreams is useless without smart follow-through. When tackling oversized goals:

  • Set a visionary timeline for the end result but also define measurable milestones along the way. 
  • Break your big dream down into digestible, executable action steps.
  • Maintain focus on the eventual desired outcome but also stay flexible – plans may shift given new learning.
  • Consistently align daily efforts to incremental progress rather than getting distracted by busywork.
  • Regularly review and thoughtfully revise plans as needed – truly big goals take time to achieve.

Adopting the Right Mindset

Decorative Image "Adopting the right mindset"

Cultivating scary, wildly ambitious dreams also requires embracing a growth mindset and tuning out naysayers. Useful mental principles include:

  • Viewing abilities as expandable through practice rather than fixed aptitudes we lack. 
  • Remaining positive and perseverant when encountering inevitable setbacks on the path. Learn from failures.
  • Drawing strength and courage from the magnitude of your vision versus allowing it to intimidate you. 
  • Ignoring those advising you to rein in your dream and play it safe. Chart your own course. 
  • Appreciating the journey and process as much as the destination.


As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf put it, “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them.” 

Daring to nurture grand, “impossible” dreams reveals undiscovered potential and abilities within us. With smart planning and adopting the right mindset, these scary goals can transform from fantasy into reality, leading to immense personal and professional growth. 

Rather than automatically self-censoring, give your boldest, most ambitious visions free rein. You simply don’t know what you can achieve until you wholeheartedly try.

Success Minded

Writer & Motivator with a goal of Inspiring and Helping 1 Million people across the globe to reach their goals. Join the largest self-improvement community on Twitter (700K+) over at @_SuccessMinded_

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