It’s so easy to get stressed and overwhelmed when you must deal with something unexpected, a deadline, a difficult task, a change in your circumstances or when you are working toward creating a new business, a change in your own personality or habits or really want to change something but just don’t know how to get started. In most cases, overwhelm leads to lack of action. Lack of action ensures you won’t succeed. Not succeeding feeds an internal narrative that you are a failure. Sound familiar?
In my own experience and in my experience as a life coach, it is my observation that the majority of people who experience that feeling of overwhelm actually create that feeling unintentionally and unconsciously. It has less to do with what needs to get done and more to do with a mindset. It is only natural to look at the end product or desired result before you get started. But if you stay stuck on this thought, the end product or desired result grows bigger and becomes harder to accomplish.
It is always very helpful to NOT look at the desired result as your goal. It becomes much easier when you divide the goal into sub-goals. When you break down the desired goal into small pieces, those small pieces become far less challenging and easier to accomplish. How is this done? You simply start from the very beginning and write down everything you will need to accomplish your goal. For example, if you need to write a term paper, you actually write down the following before you start anything: 1) Get pen or open my computer. 2) Create a comfortable space for writing or typing on my computer. 3) Shut off my cell phone so there are no interruptions. 4) Fill a glass of water. 5) Look at the assignment and understand exactly what is being asked of me. 6) Clarify the order in which I will address the topic by writing an outline. 7) Write down the order of information within each topic so that the paper flows properly and builds on itself. 8) Find information on-line that will educate me and enable me to address each paragraph or sub-topic logically and completely, one topic at a time. 9) After I know what I need to write for paragraph or sub-topic one, I will write it before I go on to research what I need to know for paragraph or sub-topic 2. 10) I will do this for each paragraph or sub-topic. 11) Once I feel I have completed everything I need to say, then I will read it as a whole for the first time and make refinements.
Of course, this is just an example. But if you do it this way, by the time you actually begin writing the paper, you have already succeeded at the first 8 items on your list. This creates a sense of order which leads to a sense of calm, which leads to a sense of purpose, which leads to accomplishing your goal without overwhelm. Taking the task in “small bites” makes it much more manageable. With anything that you need to do that makes you feel overwhelmed, breaking down the task into small bites makes success far more likely.
Much the same way metaphorically, if you had to cross a rushing river and only looked at the other side, it becomes challenging and overwhelming. But if you only look at the first stone you need to jump to and then jump to it, then only look at the second stone, etc., the task at hand changes to many successes instead of one big failure due to fear or overwhelm.
In life, there are many obstacles we face and many challenges that we are presented with. Some are out of our control. Some we choose on our own. Either way, it’s always an easier path when you divide it into small pieces and work to successfully complete each small piece. We call this “a plan of action”. When you are able to create a plan of action, you increase your likelihood of success dramatically. The more you do it, the better you get at creating your plan of action. The more things you set out to accomplish with a plan of action, the more things you will succeed at. It’s simple math.
The beautiful side benefit of doing things this way is that you count many more successes along the way. Success builds self-esteem which filters out into every aspect of your life, and ultimately winds up greatly enhancing your life experience and empowering you to reach for more lofty goals.
Dr. Robert Kornfeld is a life coach and holistic podiatrist based in NYC and Long Island. He is the Founder of Change Your Story Coaching (www.changeyourstorycoaching.com) and assists people on their journey to making their dream life happen. Sign up for his email list and get all of his timely and informative articles in your inbox. Are you ready to change your story? Change your life? Contact him today. For coaching, he can be contacted at [email protected]. He also practices functional medicine for chronic foot and ankle pain at The Chronic Foot Pain Center in NYC and Port Washington, L.I. (www.drrobertkornfeld.com). For foot and ankle medical problems, he can be contacted at [email protected].