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Eating Elephants

You have probably heard this one:

"How do you eat an elephant?"

"One bite at a time."

Of course, we shouldn't eat elephants, but for some reason, we all try. You know what it is like when you have a project or something that has to be done, and it is so big that you curl up into a ball in the closet under the dirty clothes and hope it will go away. Or am I the only one that handles it that way? And when you come out from under the pile of dirty clothes, that big thing is still there - grinning at you maliciously and letting you know that you can't hide.

And, of course, we put it off because we are afraid to start or can't find the end of the thread to begin. And the more we put it off, the bigger it gets. And the bigger it gets, the more afraid we are until we swear we are never leaving the clothes pile in the closet again.

We may feel this is a useful coping technique; it really is not. Avoidance never makes things any better. But how do we begin when we view it as too big?f

First, it is a matter of telling that voice to shut up and let you think. We are all really good at yelling at ourselves and being the worst critic we have. I have a good friend who once told me that if anyone else talked to me the way my inner critic does, she would have to beat the crap out of them. But that voice that says you can't is always the loudest, so learning to muzzle it is your first step. Turning that voice down or even off is a blog for another day - today, we are going to look at breaking down the "elephant" into bite-size pieces.

Every task has many little tasks that make it up. For example, in my house, that laundry I so conveniently like to hide under is totally out of control. And taken as a whole will probably necessitate weeks to complete. (Well, it feels that way.) But, if I break it down into smaller steps that I tackle one at a time, the huge becomes, well, less huge. So today, I am going to wash, hang out on the line, take off the line, fold, and put away only ONE load. And while that still gives me plenty to hide under if I need it, the task is not quite so big. If I do the same tomorrow and maybe even tackle two loads, I can see my way out.

Your elephant may be more critical or dangerous, or painful than my pile of dirty laundry but every task, no matter what it is, has smaller parts. Write them out, make a checklist, or scribble them on the mirror in lipstick. Whatever you do, as you take care of the smaller things and cross them off, the end becomes closer, and you can see your way through.

One of the most difficult things for us to handle is when we become verwhelmed by the whole and aren't able to see a way through. The thinking brain shuts down and the inner critic takes over and before we know it we are overwhelmed and unable to function. This is when we need someone to take our hand and say "Let's break it down into steps you can handle."

So, this is my task for today - reminding you to look at the smaller pieces. You will get there and it will be okay.

Oh, and tell your inner critic to just shut up.

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