One question to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.

I especially love the quote by Confucius : “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Every accomplishment, significant or small, has a first step. For some, that first step can be the most difficult one to take. The tasks ahead can seem too steep to climb uphill. The dream goal seems too far from reach. However, we need to know that no significant accomplishment happens all at once. Having the courage to take the first step, and the feeling of accomplishment that goes with it, could be just what we need to give ourselves the confidence to achieve our goals.

I remember when I was in school, I used to be a procrastinator, often rushing to complete my school homework the night before it was due. I became slightly better and more responsible when I started work, however, I felt terrified when I was asked to be in charge of an annual staff retreat. It was a three days, two night bonding cum work plan event. I have no prior experience in organizing events and was at a loss to what I am supposed to do. To make matters worst, I had about 6 weeks to do all the planning and organizing.

I had to recce for the most suitable hotel stay for a team of about 30 people, plan for the three days activities, think about fun games to engage staff and not forgetting about prizes too! I had to search for the best places to have our meals bearing in mind that it had to be halal for our muslim colleagues and had to ensure that everything is within the budget.

I knew I had to create a schedule of smaller tasks to complete over 6 weeks time frame.  I made a list of everything I needed to get done and what day it needed to get it done.

At first, it seems like a herculean task, but setting a goal, taking small steps to organize and complete it step by step makes the journey less intimating and the event was able to be carried out relatively well. I have learned that even though some goals are difficult to reach, they are much easier to achieve by taking small steps along the  way.

As I reflect back as a school student, our Literature teacher asked an interesting question : “How do you eat an elephant?” when we complain that we have too many homework to do. We didn’t give her an answer as we taught it might be a trick question. So she graciously gave us the answer : “One bite at the time.”

Excellent reminder ! I will never forget this particular lesson she taught us. I have learned that if you view the elephant as one giant goal that your life depends on, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. The key is to take one bite at the time and appreciate the journey along the way.

There are still moments that I struggle with projects, however, whenever I feel overwhelmed by big projects, tasks or goals, I will ask myself “How do you eat an elephant?”

It’s the first step that is most important and breaking up a task into smaller steps that makes achieving goals easier.

Long term goals are important as it help us strive to be the best we can be. However, for every long term goal you have, you want to have many short and medium term goals. It is the small ‘bites’ and choices you make over time that eventually lead to achieving your bigger dreams.

So each time you feel overwhelmed by projects or tasks. Remember to ask yourself : “How do you eat an elephant? ” It will remind you of breaking big tasks into “digestible” steps and help you to progress towards your goal!

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