Updated: May 7, 2022
Part 3 Here is an example drawn from my own life. When I was in my last semester of graduate school, I had two very important papers to complete, during a time when I was completely overwhelmed and burned out. One of my classmates and dear friends was a counselor at an elementary school in our town. He had already completed his degree and finally, one day I took one small step.
I called him and told him I was frozen, and I just couldn’t get started. He agreed to share some materials with me to help me study, so I made an appointment to meet him at his school. On the way back from our meeting, I was so deep in my feelings and self-defeating thoughts that I accidentally made a wrong turn. I went to the end of a cul de sac, and turned around. When I stopped for traffic before re-entering the main road, I looked over at a small church on my right. There, carved into the capstone of the brick steps leading up to the building was a message I believe was sent from God himself. It said, “The job is always hardest before it’s begun.”
What a truth! And what an answer! This was the message I had been looking for! I went straight home and sat down at my computer and just began typing. Something broke loose in me, and I became a living example of those words. Once I stopped being frozen by the fear that my efforts would fail, and I focused on getting started, I completed both papers and graduated.
Whatever your goal, your class, your assignment, your trial, your need, just BEGIN. As I often tell my clients, “Something is always better than nothing, when it’s positive.”
This old joke always makes me laugh, but it has been very helpful in getting past those stifling fears. “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, so easily overlooked, is, “One bite at a time.”
The papers I had to write had become elephants in my mind that I couldn’t even begin to tackle. But when I began with one small bite, that act gave me the courage to plan and execute other bites; eventually, I was able to complete the project. I call this “Elephant Problem Solving,” and I often use this method with clients who are stuck or feeling overwhelmed.
Begin by making a list of the “elephants'' on your agenda. Typically, those are large projects or goals on which you just can’t seem to get started . Next, make a list of all the bites you would need to take to make the elephant go away. And remember, no bite is too small. I once started a task with the bite, “Open the book.” Next came “Read page one,” etc. Other daunting elephants might be household projects or cleaning, vacation or estate planning, health goals or new pursuits. Anything that seems too big or intimidating to tackle can be achieved by applying this strategy.
I actually rolled my eyes when I heard about a tactic called the “Blast Off” strategy. But once I tried it, I was convinced that it was perfect for OMAAT living! This strategy entails intentionally committing to one task, such as “I will load the dishwasher.” Countdown from five, and when you reach blast off, (5,4,3,2,1, BLAST OFF!) you give yourself no other option than to separate your body from the surface on which it is sitting or lying. Once in a standing position, then go immediately toward the dishwasher. You will find that this method helps you gain momentum to complete one task at a time. When you are depressed, or frozen by anxiety, simply getting started is often the catalyst we need to get beyond our feelings, and move into mindful action.
I hope you will consider OMAAT Mindfulness as you seek to escape the mindlessness that drains mental energy and distances us from goals and dreams.