“A Journey of A Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step” ― Lao-Tzu
You’ve probably heard the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It makes sense; an elephant is obviously too big to be eaten in one bite. However, when it comes to tackling large goals, we tend to take an all-or-nothing approach.
Picture an entire elephant towering over you and imagine how you would feel if I told you that you had to eat the entire thing. How would you feel? Now imagine focusing on taking one bite, just one bite. It’s much less intimidating.
Breaking down goals into smaller pieces is often called segmenting and is a technique which is taught to the Navy SEALs as they go through their training. Instead of thinking about the 10 miles they have yet to run, they tell themselves to “just get past that tree” or “make it over that hill”. They would focus on one meal at a time; once you make it to lunch, then you focus on making it to dinner. Anyone can make it to the next meal.
Goal segmenting is a simple way to help you to achieve your goals. When we focus on a large, complicated or long-term goal it tends to be overwhelming. This creates thoughts of doubt, fear and failure as we think about all the things we have to do. Breaking a goal down into smaller pieces helps us to keep our spirits up and focus on the task at hand.
Being able to immerse yourself in what you are doing is the key to successful completion of any task. If your thoughts are in the future, then you are approaching the task with a divided mind and the quality of your work will suffer.
In the following 3 minute video, Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL and Rhodes Scholar, concisely explains how segmenting can help us to deal with difficult situations and overwhelming goals. (Having trouble viewing the video? Watch it here)
“All you can do to be courageous is to master this moment.” It’s as simple as it is beautiful.
Try This Simple Exercise and Feel the Power of Segmenting
Here is a simple exercise you can try which will show you the power of segmenting your goals.
Position a timer where you can see it and do jumping jacks for two minutes. As you do the jumping-jacks, watch the timer countdown to zero. Then, try it again for two more minutes and this time, as you do the jumping jacks, focus on simply getting through the next ten seconds. Keep telling yourself, “I just need to make it through the next ten seconds”. This practice will help you to really feel the difference segmenting can make.
An Easy Way to Master the Skill of Segmenting Goals
A terrific way to teach yourself to segment your goals is through washing the dishes. If you look at all the dishes you have to wash, it may fill you with dread. However, if you narrow your focus to one thing at a time and focus on each individual dish, not only will the process be less overwhelming, but you will also do a better job.
One thing must be added to this, however. Before you break down any goal into segments, you must know what your overall objective is. Before you wash the dishes you should make sure you have enough soap, look to see which dishes should go on the drying rack first, assess if there are certain dishes which should be washed first, etc.
There are many different ways in which you can develop this skill and dishwashing is simply a convenient example. The more you can practice this in different situations, the more resilient you will become.
The next time you find yourself overwhelmed by a task or distracted by all the things you have yet to do, break down your task into smaller segments. It is one of the keys to the successful accomplishment of any goal.
But, don’t wait for the next opportunity to come to you. Go now, and try one of the exercises mentioned above and get some momentum on the path to success!