I have heard this saying repeated by many different motivational speakers, authors and well-meaning people in my life. The principle is sound. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. My problem is the meal is a bit abstract. After all, who really eats an elephant? I do suppose there are laws that may prevent such a thing and I wish to bring no harm to my friends in the pachyderm world.
What this quote really refers to is taking large goals and breaking them down into smaller steps. Personally, I would find the quote a little more relatable if it read how do you eat a pizza? One slice at a time. Even if you are a big fan of the sauce pie like myself, stuffing a whole pizza in your mouth is not only impractical, but could lead to some serious health issues and is probably a choking hazard. That is not to say the thought has not crossed my mind a time or two. Even if someone places a juicy steak in front of you, the first thing most of us would do is look for a for and a knife to begin to cut it into bite-sized pieces.
While this seems like common sense when it comes to food, why do so many of us have problems understanding the same thing when it comes to our goals? I am as guilty as they come when it comes to being overwhelmed by projects. Especially new and uncomfortable goals. As soon as I get the horse in front of the cart, I start wondering about how often the horse has to eat, what kind of wheels are on the cart and what kind of abuse they can take on the journey. This can leave me feeling overwhelmed and sometimes it even prevents me from starting new projects. It is a challenge I am working on.
That is why I enjoy thinking about eating pizza. Ok, that and I really love pizza. One slice at a time. Begin with smaller goals to get the ball rolling. What can you do today? Just do that and let the steps unfold as you go along. Whether you are eating a steak, a pizza or even an elephant. We all do it one bite at a time. That is the same way we should approach our goals.
While having an inspiring and fruitful conversation with my friend Paul on how to get my first book I wrote and released last month A Happy Life for Busy People in the hands of as many people as we can. That way we can make the world a more positive place. In the course of bouncing around ideas for promotion he told me he had planned on writing a book on how to add more happiness to your life, but for children. My first thought for a split second was that children have a natural capacity for joy. Why would they need a book? Then it occurred to me, that is exactly why they need a book. As we grow up our parents and other adults, well-meaning as they may be, often cause us to lose that inner peace and joy. They warn us about the dangers and what is wrong with the worlds. They tell us we can’t do things often to keep us from disappointment. As an adult if you say you wish to learn a foreign language perhaps and another adult tells you that you can’t you surely won’t just give up on their word. So why do we often still accept limits and beliefs we received as children well into adulthood, sometimes all the way until the end of our lives? The answer can be found at your local zoo. Have you ever seen the elephants at the zoo with just a chain around their ankle not able to escape? I have often wondered why doesn’t this big elephant just snap the chain and say “Thanks for the hay, but I am on the first plane back to Africa!” then it occurs to me an elephant can’t go on a plane and airfare doesn’t cost mere peanuts. Ok, double bad joke there, but seriously why don’t they break the chain when they easily could? The answer is in their childhood. When the elephants are young and far weaker the chain is put on. For months and years they try to break it and can’t. So when they reach adulthood and develop muscles that could easily snap the chain they accept the limit of their childhood and assume they could not. After all they spent years trying before. Is this true in your life? Do you have chains that hold you back you may have tried before and failed to break? Do you now just accept them as limits? Perhaps you have developed muscles you may not have realized that would help you shatter those limits? Not just physical muscles, but perhaps decision-making muscles, or the muscles of wisdom and experience? Take a new look at limits you have accepted about yourself. Perhaps they are not so true as we might have thought.