HOW DOES ONE EAT AN ELEPHANT?
I do not know about you, but I am quite easily overwhelmed by the demands of life. I can get terribly stressed out when it looks as if too many things are demanding my attention at the same time. It does not even have to be significant or important things. We are talking normal life-stuff here; like having to make an appointment for a health assessment for my medical aid, buying ingredients for dinner tonight and booking an aeroplane ticket to visit my folks. I look at these things and all I see is DEMANDS! Demands on my time, demands on my energy, demands on my patience, demands on my personal skills and demands on my organisational abilities.
My learnt behaviour in these cases is to, ostrich-style, shove my head in the sand and pretend that these things are not demanding my attention. The problem is, the longer I ignore them, the more tense I feel and eventually I feel as if my whole life is out of control. I then start telling myself that I am a bad person, because I cannot even manage to do the simple things in life. Once this stinking thinking starts, I am on a very slippery slope; on my way to depression. I have learnt that my depression is not clinical, more often than not, what I call depression in my own life, is merely a sense of a lack or loss of control. Please note my careful selection of words, “merely a sense of ……”. It is not a loss of control at all, but I have the feeling that it is. Those feelings are mine and they are valid and I own them. And because I own them, I can do something about them.
One of the first things I do is to separate the feelings from the facts. I physically sit still and ask myself: “Does it feel as if your life is out of control?” “Is your life really out of control?” Invariably the answers to those questions are very clear “Yes” and “No”. This is a very important step, because now I know that I am dealing with feelings and not reality. What I currently have to decide, is what I am going to do with the information that I now have at hand.
I have learnt that I can change my feelings by taking action. But, what action does one take and how does one take it, when one feels this overwhelmed? I start by asking myself one simple question: “How does one eat an elephant?” The answer is the same, always, does not matter what the situation. The correct and only answer to that question is: “One bite at a time.” Nobody has ever “eaten a whole elephant” in one bite or even in one sitting. For that matter, I have never heard of anybody eating an elephant. But, in my mind, I clearly see myself with my bib over my chest, my knife and fork in my hands, and an elephant lying, legs in the air, on a plate in front of me. And I know what to do…… Take a bite, chew, swallow. Take a bite, chew, swallow. Repeat until finished.
Unlike a lot of self-help books that proclaim that we need to take a pen and paper and write a list of what needs to be done and then prioritise those tasks, I decide on one thing to do and do that first. That thing is the easiest and quickest thing there is to do. One thing. Only one. The smallest and the quickest one. Grab it ….. Do it……. And look at the result. I tell myself: “Look what I have done”. I can see the result and I know that I am not useless or out of control. “Look, I have done something. Useless people cannot do stuff. I am not useless. I am organised and in control.”
It normally takes one small things to make one huge difference in my mind and in my life. All it takes is action. One small action. Do it again and again and again and before you know it, you have done what needed to be done and you feel like a new person.
Try it. Come on. Bite that elephant! Now chew, chew, chew, chew and swallow…. Repeat………. and again!