One of my favorite motivational quotes of all time is How do you eat an elephant? . . . One bite at a time.
In today’s fast paced world, figuring out who can eat the whole elephant the fastest (which is irrelevant, and unrealistic) often leads to anxiety, stress, and discontent. I know my teenage daughter has seen her stress levels increase during this pandemic, and they were already at elevated levels in the fast paced, social media world of today that teens have to live in. Now that we are familiar with the concept of epidemics, I put forth the thesis that eating elephants and the associated stress has itself become an epidemic, which very few of people are willing to talk about their experiences in dealing with their elevated stress levels.
So, what do I mean, when I ask how do you eat an elephant?
Of course, I don’t literally mean eating an elephant. Elephant in this instance is a metaphor for any item that you need to get done that brings about feelings of being overwhelmed either because of the enormity of the task, or the of the lack of time to complete it. Either way, you feel paralyzed by the fear of trying to accomplish the task, and as a result your stress levels go through the roof, and may manifest themselves into physical/mental ailments.
The elephant in the room can broach any area of our lives: Work (i.e., I have so many deadlines, how will I meet them all?), Friends (i.e. How can I keep up with the Jones’s?), Family (i.e. How can I make more time for my family?), Money (i.e. How am I ever going to retire?), Social Media (i.e. Other people are posting way better things than me), and on and on.
How in the world am I expected to complete all that I need to do?
. . . one bite at a time my friend, one bite at a time.
Let’s talk about money for a moment. One of your money elephants may be that you want to be financially independent by a certain age (i.e. Retire), but you have absolutely zero idea on how you’re going to do it?
Take the first bite.
Determine when you would like to retire. Done! The first bite has been taken and that sense you get of taking that first bite, may help motivate you to take another bite. Recognize that you’ve taken a bite, and get excited for the next one, because so many times we fail to see and appreciate the bite we’ve already taken, because we are so focused on how much of the elephant we have left.
And the next bite?
Well, determine how much you need in financial independence. And how Lon, do I do that? Well, take what you’re spending every month today, and work from there. An idea would be to take 85% of your current monthly expenditures, and set that as an amount for your monthly paycheck in retirement.
Boom another bite taken! Now, after that second bite, a sense of accomplishment may really be starting to take hold, because you’ve already taken two bites from the elephant!
Start investing, and keep investing. No matter the state of the economy, equity markets, bond markets, or what political consternations are happening around you. Every contribution you make, you’re taking another bite! Just keep putting in!
And soon the that elephant is gone. So now that that elephant is gone, it’s on to the next one!
Understand and recognize that we all have elephants; in many cases, we find ourselves trying to eat multiple elephants at a time. How do we do that?
Exactly. . . one bite at a time!
Maybe it would help you to stop putting so much focus on the elephant and start focusing on the bites you’ve taken. It may help you to feel accomplished and motivated to see it through (depending on the size of the elephant it may take you years to eat, but keep taking bites!) and before long, your plate is empty, and the elephant is gone!
No matter your elephant, take a deep breath, take a small bite, and keeping biting! You’ll find that it’s the small bites that help you along the way, to potentially relieve your stress and ultimately get you closer to where you want to be.