18 Jan How Do You Eat An Elephant?
Over the past couple years, I’ve managed to radically change my outlook for the better. I’ve gone from focusing on what was wrong with my life (and as a result, being pretty unhappy) to being a rather cheery, optimistic guy who is able to see the good in my life.
But it didn’t happen overnight.
Big life changes never do. And big goals aren’t reached at the drop of a hat. Most goals are the culmination of countless small steps. When you’re faced with a big change or want to achieve a big goal, it’s a good idea to start small.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
I’ve written before about the power of small steps in the right direction because I’ve seen first hand how powerful this concept can be.
But sometimes even taking one small step can be hard. It can be scary. It can be easy to say, ‘what’s the point?’
According to my friend, the speaker, workshop facilitator and author Louisa Jewell, that’s when it’s time to ‘engage in small yeses’. I’ve been reading Louisa’s new book “Wire Your Brain for Confidence; The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt”. Halfway through chapter 4, this section stuck out to me. She’s generously agreed to share this excerpt with us…
Engage in Small Yeses
Excerpt from: Wire Your Brain for Confidence; The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt by Louisa Jewell
“You do not necessarily have to start with one big decision. Remember, success comes not with one big yes but with hundreds of smaller yeses along the way. Let’s say you want to lose weight. This goal requires you to regulate what you eat every day, and make a choice every time you think about eating. Do I have my coffee black, or with cream and sugar? Do I have fried eggs with bacon and buttered toast, or choose poached eggs and fruit instead? Do I order salad with lean chicken, or my favorite grilled-cheese sandwich with fries? It is not an earth-shattering event that maintains your weight or causes weight loss or gain. It is one small decision at a time, one small shift in your thinking. If every time you have to make that decision you say to yourself, This morning I will have my coffee with cream and sugar, but tomorrow I’ll have it black or For lunch this time I will have the fries, but I’ll eat less for dinner, you are putting off your decision to eat well and you will not achieve your desired weight-loss goal.
Instead, every time you are sitting with that damn uncomfortable decision, realize that this is the moment. This tiny decision will make or break your diet. You have a chance to make that decision several times a day. Losing the weight requires that consciousness and strength. Over time, those positive decisions add up and voilà, some months later, you have lost the weight.
The same applies to increasing your courage. When faced with that decision to rise to the occasion and take a risk (which might lead to failure or disappointment or social embarrassment), you have to understand that this is your moment. It might be easy to say, “There will be another opportunity tomorrow. It’s too scary right now” or “I’m not in the best place to make this decision, I’m too busy. . . I’ll do it next week.” That is the moment you have to picture yourself in the future regretting decisions you did not make in the present. Choose the short-term pain or challenge—which, by the way, might actually be less scary than you think. You might find that what appeared to be impossible was completely achievable. You might even . . . wait for it . . . succeed on your first try! Or maybe the first try is a disappointment but you learn so much from it that it will help you achieve success the next time, and the next time. Remember that it might take several tries.
Start by asking yourself, “What is a small yes?” Recognize when one small opportunity to say yes is staring you in the face, and start to chip away at your fear. If you’re too scared to ask someone out on a date, a small yes might be to engage in friendly chitchat with strangers in the food court. If public speaking is too scary for you, you might start by asking if you can be the person to thank the speaker at the end of their talk. If you’re too afraid to start your own business, maybe you do a bit of work for a friend who is running their own business. Identify what those small yeses are for you, and start finding opportunities to act on them.
That moment when you have the chance to say yes is powerful. Own it.”
There’s so much good stuff in there!
Louisa does a great job of illustrating the importance of each small decision and step in the right direction. Each step may be incalculably small, but those little steps add up in a hurry. Once you identify what you want to achieve, remember to ask yourself, “What is a small yes?” At first, it may be hard to see, but the more you try, the better you’ll get at identifying little steps in the right direction.
So, what’s a small yes in your path right now? Go take action!