Oh, about eating that Elephant…

It is week 2 of the home-schooling project with my son, Adrian. This week has been a lot harder than week 1. I think the reality of it all has set in. Adrian is realising how much work it actually is. He is struggling to maintain motivation to continue working and his enthusiasm for the project is becoming less. He is complaining about how little free time he has and he is sleeping a lot as he is feeling very tired. Part of his Asperger’s is co-morbid depression and this is going to be the enemy we need to defeat.

Before we started, I did tell him that it was going to be hard and that he had 3 months to think about it. He chose to go ahead. We have all invested as a family – our time, our commitment and also our money. Therefore, we must continue and most of all HE must continue. Perhaps I am a little bit mean to force him like this, but I am not prepared to let him quit. Especially not in week 2!

So, therefore I am writing this piece about the myth of overnight success so that he can see what it takes to reach that tough goal you have set for yourself.

Success looks so easy when other people achieve it, doesn’t it? But the truth is, we never know how much work went into it, or how many times that person failed and tried again. I found this article about the myth of overnight success:

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So, now that we know it takes an enormous amount of work and a long time to be successful, should we just give up? NO! So then, what should we do to achieve that seemingly impossible goal? These are my tips and life lessons for achieving success:

  1. Eat the elephant one bite at a time

An enormous and far distant goal is seldom achievable. You get dis-heartened because the finish line is so far way and on top of that it’s hard to focus on something that is years away. So take that enormous goal, and break it down into smaller goals that you need to achieve along the way.

I would recommend that your smaller goals not be longer than 3 months in duration. It is easy to focus on 12 weeks. You can break this into even smaller milestones – perhaps weekly.

If you measure your progress every week, you will notice very soon if you are starting to slip off the path, and be able to correct this by changing your behaviour or getting appropriate help with something you are struggling with. If you only measure every three months, or every year even (I’m thinking new years’ resolutions…), imagine how far things could be going wrong by the time you notice that you slipped off your chosen path? Imagine how de-motivated you would be if you have to re-do 3 months’ worth of work or longer? Perhaps this is why so many people fail to achieve those goals that they set at the beginning of the year, and then only evaluate again at the end of the year.

So, the gist of this is to measure and assess your progress at least weekly. Take set-backs in your stride and find solutions.

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  1. Add some honey to sweeten the meal

Now that you have broken your “elephant” into bite size pieces, how do you stay motivated to eat those pieces, every.single.day? As you can imagine, one does grow quite tired of eating that elephant!

I like to play a little motivation game with myself to help me continue to eat the elephant. I set rewards for achieving my milestones and mini goals; perhaps an activity I love to do, or a break, or a small gift to myself. Something like a movie, time pursuing a favourite hobby, a slab of my favourite dark chocolate. This works!

Of course, you have to be disciplined enough that you do not allow yourself the reward if you did not achieve the goal.

  1. Don’t get stuck on eating only the elephant

Sometimes we become so focused on achieving our goal that we forget to take care of the other parts of ourselves. For instance, if your goal is an educational/intellectual one, try to incorporate some physical activity and some creative pursuits into your schedule, just to prevent fatigue.

Also, work on improving focus and concentration. Your brain can be trained to become better at this with continuous practice. If you are studying, or performing a physically repetitive exercise, you may struggle with concentration in the beginning, but this will improve. Consciously avoid getting distracted by telling your inner voice: “not now, I am busy right now”. I found the following BBC article very amusing and interesting:

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Remove distractions from your work space. If you love playing computer games, don’t study where you play games. Switch off your cell-phone. You get the drift.

  1. With a little help from my friends

If you get stuck and you really can’t face another bite of the damn elephant, ask for help. There will be someone with the right knowledge or skill that you can ask, or perhaps just a friend with whom you can discuss your feelings and be motivated by them. Most successes take a whole team of people to achieve, behind the scenes.

Professional athletes, for instance, typically have a manager, a coach, a physiotherapist, a sport psychologist, a biokineticist, a dietician and of course their family and friends to support them.

Of course, you need to understand the problem so that you can ask for the right help. So be honest with yourself. Remember that you are human and that you have emotions, however silly these may seem at the time. Evaluate the stumbling block and then approach the person that you believe can help you.

  1. Celebrate your successes

Whenever you achieve a goal, make an enormous big deal out of it. Celebrate the living daylights out of it! It will become a good memory that you can use to motivate you to reach the next goal. Remember the feeling of achievement and call on it when you need to visualise your next success. See yourself there, in that moment, but now celebrating your next goal. This is a powerful weapon against depression and de-motivation.

I hope this article will help a little bit. In closing all I can say is we all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we choose to prioritise and spend those hours is up to each of us. You are ultimately the master of your own destiny and you have to accept responsibility for your own success.

PS - I would NEVER eat an elephant. I love elephants!

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