Several famous identities have been credited the wise saying “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” What is meant by this is that everything in life that seems daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible can be accomplished gradually by taking on just a little at a time. A well-known philosopher put it this way: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
It seems that coming out the other side of this COVID isolation period, many people are still experiencing a touch of overwhelm. Whether it was a big work goal or project that has had a shadow cast over it, or just a readapting to changed situations, it has brought with it anxiety and trepidation for some. After all, seeing a shadow or new situation as the size of an elephant can have you fearing the beast is going to sit right down and squash the life out of you. It is the reason so many people respond by mistakenly trying to eat the whole elephant in a single bite.
So how can you eat that elephant?
1. One Bite at a Time. When you feel overwhelmed, it helps to remember to take your commitments and actions and break them into bite size, or fun size, goals. Remind yourself that you have choices about what you say “yes” and “no” to, and when and how you move forward.
2. Realise from the start that your motivation levels will vary from day to day. One day you might wake up and plan to accomplish a large amount of work and can hardly wait to get started. The next day you don’t want to start at all. This is okay. On the low-motivation day, approach things differently. It’s okay to tell yourself, “Since I’m not that into it today, I’ll just go out and do a little bit, part of a task, or some of what needs to be done.” Once you get going, you may get into the zone and end up doing a whole lot more.
3. Celebrate Your Wins. Each time you reach a milestone, celebrate it! Treat yourself in a way that seems appropriate. Acknowledge your progress and channel that positive energy into taking the next bite.
4. Enlist Helpers. Find and surround yourself with people who will support you. They may be friends, colleagues, family members, a coach, mentor or adviser. Keep connected to people who inspire, encourage and challenge you.
It is important to consider that only working within our own strength and capacity comes with limitations. Working in God’s strength (which is limitless) takes some of our burden as we take one bite at a time.
1 Peter 5 says: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. It says a little later in verse 10 that the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. This is his promise to us.