‘I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.’
(Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor)
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! This question has been posed in multiple military settings and I was introduced to the concept during a senior leadership program while serving in the Air Force.
There are times when human nature takes over and we view a project (elephant) as something too large for completion. Instead of trying to eat the ‘entire’ elephant, what happens when you simply dive in and begin to take small bites? Over time the project is completed, and you have conquered something that appears to be too large.
Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties.
Think of the freshmen who enter colleges and universities each year. The elephant in the room (pun intended) for them is completing their degree. There are multiple factors and steps needed in order to eat that elephant. The ability to have and display perseverance is needed because there are a lot of variables that come into play when working towards a degree. Course offerings, prerequisites order, housing, financial aid, roommates, support systems, and nutrition are some things that could impact a student’s ability to start and complete a degree program. Breaking down these variables and others that come up into manageable action steps (bites) provide an avenue to eat the elephant and persevere towards degree completion.
You can leverage the eating an elephant analogy in the work environment as well. I view projects and speaking opportunities as my version of elephants. I identify actions steps needed to complete the project and then incrementally build a platform for success. This concept allows me to focus on the desired outcome by putting in the work to ensure I’m taking the necessary bites to meet my goal. I build presentations using this process and can identify holes early. Filling the gaps identified is much easier for me by leveraging this concept.
So, who’s ready to eat their next elephant? Try this as an approach when faced with a new project at work or for that next class assignment.
What benefits would ‘one bite at a time’ have for your personal and/or professional development? Thanks!