Most of you have heard the old riddle “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” This principle can be very helpful when we are stressed about our day or week. Most of the tasks, obligations, meetings and chores we face during the day are fairly simple or easy taken individually. However, for whatever the reason, the tendency is to look at them in the aggregate. Have you ever used the expression “I have so much to do today!!”. The simple individual tasks, when all grouped together, then become very ominous and cause us great stress. Often we are so overcome by the enormity of the totality that we simply give up and accomplish nothing.
As a basketball coach, I often practice with my players the stressful situation of “making two free throws to win the game.” The approach I instill in my players is NOT to think about making both free throws. You can’t make both until you make the first. So the mindset is to focus simply on “just making one – the next one.” Once you make the first, you then have additional confidence to make the second. My experience is the players usually end up with streaks of 25 or more – not worrying about making 25 – just focusing on making one – the next one. Accomplishment, energy and success breeds more accomplishment, energy and success. The same mindset can work in your daily life.
I recently watched U.S. Navy Admiral and Seal Commander William McCraven deliver a commencement speech to University of Texas graduates. His advice on how to be successful: take the time each morning to make your bed. The theory is if you take the time to make your bed each morning you have achieved an accomplishment. One thing off your list. Once you achieve one accomplishment it propels you to achieve the next. Additionally, even if you have had a terrible day and feel you did nothing, when you get home, you will at least have the satisfaction of having made your bed.
Use this plan of attack to be more successful in your life. Write down your list of things you need to do in a day or for the week. Focus on just one to do. Complete the task and then make sure to cross it off your list (this is very important). Once you accomplish one task, the sense of achievement then propels you to complete the next task. Before you know it, you have checked off all the items on your list and you have given yourself a sense of accomplishment that will then energize you to do it all over again the next day. Before you know it, you have “eaten the entire elephant” and done so with minimal stress. So start “eating” your list one item at a time to maximize your success.