How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time…
An elephant is a very large animal. If you set out a goal to eat an elephant it would take a long time, and you’d probably need help! You would need to have a very detailed plan of action which would require many steps. You would need a lot of different resources and professional expertise (after all do you know anything about elephant hunting?)
So your plan may look like this:
Set a date for cook
Research elephant hunters
Research cooking methods
Book venue for kitchen and storage of leftovers
Cut up elephant
Start eating elephant
Pack away leftovers and clean up
Slowly consume elephant over the next few months
Vow never to eat elephant meat ever again as you are now sick of it!
So you can see that even though your original goal was to eat the elephant, it was a huge goal and quite ambiguous and probably made you think I could never do that!
Let’s put this into a health goal perspective:
I want you to close your eyes and think of that big goal you have in your mind. Is it to lose body fat? Or run a certain distance? Or even just get up the hill without puffing? Remember it’s your goal and is big to you. Now with your eyes closed think about what that makes you feel? Is it scary? Is it exciting? Does it feel too hard? Unachievable? Be really honest with yourself…. close your eyes and get in touch with your gut reaction to the idea of going for that goal.
Okay, let’s take one of the examples above and make it less scary. We’ll use the marathon in this instance. Firstly, the reason it feels scary is this is something new, unchartered territory, and it all seems too big, too HUGE to achieve. “I could never do that” “I’ll never be fit enough” “I can’t even run 5 meters” “I may as well forget that as a goal” Sound familiar? You see the problem is we get fixated on the end goal and it ends up in the too hard basket because in reality it is too hard and too much. Your brain can't handle thinking about it and it causes a stress reaction, so you toss the idea.
What you have to do is break it down into smaller “bites”, steps that ARE achievable. It may look something like this:
Choose a marathon to enter in a year’s time
Research running gear
Buy running gear and shoes
Start a couch to 5km training programme
Enter 5km race
Hire a personal trainer
Join a running group
Enter a 10km race
Take up yoga for runners
Learn about nutrition for runners
Enter a half marathon
Set up training schedule
Learn about fuelling for marathons
Enter full marathon
Set up training schedule
So now with the above in mind, can you take YOUR goal and break it down into smaller “bites”? Take out a piece of paper, put your goal at the top and start mapping out the steps you need to achieve the goal. Now close your eyes again and imagine just the first step. Can you do that? How do you feel now in comparison to trying to imagine the end result. On a scale of 1 to 10 how doable does the first step feel?
Now go out there and get eating! And let me know how it goes!
Oh, and by the way, no elephants were harmed in the making of this blog post :)
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach