Eat The Elephant

I love to eat. I’m not a big meal, large quantity consumer – unless it’s pizza, then I go big! I’m more of a nibbler, and I just happen to have a sweet tooth, so I really like to nibble! That said, I probably consume more calories during the day than the average person, even though I am eating small quantities, it’s all day long.

Now if I were going to eat an elephant, I would utilize the same approach. Small bites. Now you’re probably thinking “why would you ever want to eat an elephant?” I wouldn’t. But stick with me here. It has been proven that we overestimate what we can accomplish today, but we underestimate what we can accomplish over a longer period of time. In other words, our tendency is to focus on the short-term and trying to get as much done as soon as possible, but we lose focus of the long term and what we can achieve with consistent successes over a longer period of time.

When I first thought of running a marathon, the 26.2 miles seemed like a huge number that was seemingly impossible. My goal time to finish of 4 hours also seemed like a large feat. 4 hours of running. Are you kidding me? That’s a half day of work, and that seems like a long time on some days! So with the 26 mile challenge looming, I bought a plan that broke the training down to daily runs over a 4 month period. The weekdays would consist of shorter runs, and the weekend run (Saturday for me) would be a longer run.

Gradually the plan built up longer runs, but in small increments. Each week, the distance would typically increase 1 mile. After running 8 miles one week, running 9 the next week didn’t seem too bad. It was manageable. After a few months of training, I was running over 15 miles, and shortly after that I had hit the 18 mile mark.

As the marathon approached, I thought about the 26 miles, and although I knew I was physically prepared, I was still somewhat intimidated by the 26 miles. Then it hit me. I would approach it like eating an elephant – one bite at a time. I mentally broke the race down to 5 mile increments, so I basically had to do each segment 5 times. 5 was significantly easier than 26!

On the day of the race, I felt good and had the plan in my mind. The first three segments were fairly easy with my training. The fourth was a little more difficult, but I hit the 20 mile mark and started thinking about the finish. As I began the last segment, my legs were getting tired, and I was starting to feel nauseated. As I hit mile 22, I had really bad cramps in my calves. I started to feel like I wasn’t going to make it. I would try to push the pain out of my mind, but I couldn’t. Doubt started to set in. The “voice” in my head started telling me I was in too much pain to keep going. I started thinking how I had trained for months, running every day, ate better, and sacrificed so much. I did everything I had needed to, and now I had made it 22 miles only to fail.

As I was about to stop, I reminded myself, I only had one mile to go – 4 times. I began to break the elephant down into smaller bites – one mile increments. My self-doubt began to disappear. One mile would be a piece of cake. I just needed to go one mile, I didn’t think about the 4. I would simply focus on getting to the next mile marker, and then move onto the next one. Those last 4 miles were still extremely difficult, but I pushed through each mile until I crossed the finish line. As I crossed the finish line, my legs almost collapsed beneath me, but the adrenaline from the moment pushed all pain away. I did it! 26.2 miles. 4 hours of running. I ate the elephant, one mile at a time!

What elephant are you trying to eat now? You might be looking for a job, changing careers, starting a company, trying to lose weight, or running a marathon. How are you approaching it? Are you trying to make huge strides daily while losing focus of the long term? Are you trying to eat the elephant all at once? Have you been at it for a long time, and like me at mile 22 feel like you can’t go any further?

No matter what goal or dream you are going after today, remember to approach it the only way you can – like eating an elephant. You must break it down into smaller steps and increments. If you’re trying to lose 30 lbs., don’t try to do it 2 months, it won’t happen. If you would somehow lose that much that quick, it is proven that almost everyone that loses weight quickly, actually puts back on more weight than they lost!

If you break the goal of losing 30 pounds down to 1.15 pounds per week, you would lose the 30 pounds in 6 months! By losing it over a 6 month period, you have a much better chance to keep it off because you developed new habits over the longer period. With the long view and plan, you will have changed your mindset and approach to life. We would say you developed a new marathon mentality.

So what are you waiting for? Go eat the elephant!

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