Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

I press on toward the goal…” [Phi. 3:14]

As the old saying goes, one bite at a time! Our goals must be big; they must be ambitious because no other kind motivates. So make goals big…but not so big that achieving them seems impossible. So how can we have large goals without becoming discouraged? The key: divide the journey to your goal into achievable steps. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

While running the 2008 Akron (OH) Marathon I learned the need to divide big goals into small bites. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, after completing mile 5, “OK, 5 down, only 21 to go…21! I’m already tired and sweating profusely and I still have 21 miles to go?!” Bad self-psychology! Later in the race my mind said to myself, “Great job, 16 down and only 10.2 to go.” To which myself replied, “What!? Are you crazy? Who in their right mind runs 10 miles after 16?!”

I’ve learned my lesson, so in my next marathon (2009 Kentucky Derby) I will be running only 4, 6 mile laps followed by 2.2 mile. That’s all. Doesn’t my mind know better, you ask. Well, it does and it doesn’t. The key is to break the goal down into manageable steps and then take them one at a time. "It is amazing how much you can progress week after week, month after month, year after year if you allow for gradual training increases." [Bob Glover, The Runners Handbook]

The same holds true in the “races” of life. We have those moral issues, bad habits, and destructive vices that we’d like to eliminate, but the job just seems too big. And there are those virtues that we’d like to see in our life but it just seems impossible. Looking at the entire “elephant” it is; but break it down into bites and you can do it!

I once counseled someone struggling with addiction with this advice, “You don’t have to stay clean the rest of your life, just today!” It is precisely that mindset that will help us achieve any goal. You don’t have to control that emotion, destroy that vice, or eliminate that problem for the rest of your life, just for today. You cannot adopt much-needed virtues for the remainder of your years, but you can add them today!

Break that elephant down and keep chewing!

Gotta run!


Prattville Youth Group said...

Shaq said recently, "Even an ant will try to kick an elephant when he's down." What that has to do with your blog, I have no clue. Maybe the elephant parallel. Plus there's always time for valuable knowledge from the Big Shaqtus himself.

Jerry Read said...

I wondered when this one was going to get written. When you mentioned the "seeds" of it a little while back I really liked the sound of it. It turned out even better than I imagined it would. I guess that goes back to the meditating on something for awhile. You really do practice what you preach, that's why I like/respect you. Another good job.


Dude, you are SO lean ... you look like a runner, but not like a preacher! :) That's a compliment.

I enjoyed checking out your blog... I'll be back!

Good luck running ... and preaching :)

John said...

It's interesting how much harder it becomes to weather a storm when you start bringing the long term into your thoughts instead of looking at it one day at a time.

I once read an ultra-marathon runner say that he didn't look at his races as running 100 miles. Instead, he was going to run one mile 100 times. He was getting at the same thing you did: manageable chunks help us do what otherwise would mentally zap up.