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Perspectives on Change

Eating Elephants (Not Really)

As January winds down, the local gyms are starting to return to their normal membership, save a few additions, shopping carts are starting to be filled with more processed foods and the clean and organized desks in offices around the world are returning to their "differentially organized" looks. Now is the time of year when many have begun to give up on their well-intentioned New Year's resolutions. Did you ever wonder why?

Some time ago, I was at work and struggling to complete a project. The project had many parts and I was less than productive and feeling overwhelmed. While talking about my frustrations to a colleague, he looked at me and said, "How do you eat an elephant?" I was confused and just looked at him without answering. So he asked again, "How do you eat an elephant?" to which I replied I didn't know. Smiling, he said "One bite at a time." I laughed. I got it. One bite at a time. One piece at a time. One task at a time.

All too often, we get stuck looking at the whole picture. We focus on the completion of a project, task, or transformation. Our steadfast focus on keeping the end in sight as our only goal causes us to lose sight of the process it takes to get there. This can easily feel overwhelming and daunting leading us to abandon our plans for fear of failure. In contrast, breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks greatly increases our likelihood of being successful. Small achievements allow us to see progress, they are waypoints along our journey.

Here are some ways to reinvigorate and achieve success with those New Year’s resolutions:

1.     Set realistic goals. If you have not been playing football most of your life, you most likely will not play in the NFL any time soon. Your goals should be realistic in terms of something that is likely to happen if you follow your plan.

2.     Set realistic timeframes. Remember, change is a process and change takes time. Often, the situation you are trying to overcome or rectify did not grow this large overnight, do not expect it to change overnight.

3.     Allow room to readjust your goals. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we set goals that may be unrealistic. Other times, things may happen that get in the way of achieving our goals. Yet other times, we may realize the original goals were not appropriate. Being willing to reevaluate and reestablish your goals is essential. 

4.     Have the right motivation for change. Our personal goals should be things that we want to do or things that we want for ourselves. If our goals are important to us, we are more likely to invest in their success.

5.     Give yourself rewards or incentives for progress. Some goals will take an extended period of time to achieve. When you achieve one of the smaller milestones, take a minute to reflect on the journey. Pat yourself on the back or give yourself some tangible reward.

6.     Learn about yourself. Working towards our goals gives us a great opportunity to learn about what we can do when we focus on improving our lives or circumstances.

Eating elephants seems like a monumental task. Enormous and insurmountable, just like so many of the things we set out to achieve. Remember to break these huge tasks down into bite size morsels. Take the opportunity to learn and grow along the way. Most of all, Bon Appétit!