Eating the Elephant

One of my favorite jokes is, “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time!” I love it because I can completely relate to it. You can’t fit an entire elephant in your mouth at once (and why would you want to), but if you break it up into bite-sized pieces and keep on chewing, eventually you’ll be able to eat the entire thing.

Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on a big project because there are so many variables, details and steps involved that it’s almost too overwhelming to get started? This happens to me all the time, but I’ve learned that if I focus on two things, I can “eat the elephant” – I commit to doing one thing every day and I do my best to stay in the moment.

When we were getting ready to launch Stir the Embers, there were so many things that needed to get done that I really wasn’t sure how we were going to accomplish all of it. I knew I needed to wrap my arms around the enormity of launching a new business or I’d have no hope of ever helping to get it off the ground, so the first thing we did was compile a list of everything we could think of that needed to happen – everything from “write curriculum” to “build a website” to “decide on the workshop lunch menu.” Next, I started looking at the list every day and picking at least one thing I could do to move the business forward. One day I did some research on web hosting services for our website. One day I wrote a first draft of one section of the curriculum. One day we had a business meeting where we did some more strategic planning. One day I created our Facebook page. I kept on doing one more thing like that until we were ready to hold our first workshop, and I’ve pretty much stayed with that system ever since. Many days we do more than one item on the list, but if I commit to doing at least one thing to move the business forward every day, it all eventually gets done.

The second thing I focus on comes from the 12-Step programs. A friend of mine who is a recovering alcoholic tells me that there is no way he can not take a drink and stay sober for the rest of his life. Not drinking and staying sober forever is too big, too challenging and too scary for him. He can, however, stay sober today, or at least not take a drink this hour or this minute. If he stays sober right now and keeps staying sober right now, the rest of his life will take care of itself. I really love this idea and I apply it to habits I want to start (or break) and personal changes I want to make. I can’t commit to exercising every day for the rest of my life. I can’t promise that I’ll meditate for 30 minutes every day no matter what. I can, however, get up early today to run or make a point to meditate. At the risk of getting a little metaphysical on you, right now, today, is all we really have anyway. Tomorrow never comes, as the old saying goes, so if you do what you need to do today, tomorrow/the future/the rest of your life/forever takes care of itself.

So, if you’ve been putting off getting your emergency preparedness kit together or signing up for a self-defense workshop or starting a habit of daily exercise because it seemed like too big a project to get started try eating the elephant. I’d love to hear about your challenges and triumphs in the comments.

–Lisa

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