How To Eat Your Elephant: Baby Steps For Success

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“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”

Often we face elephants or problems that seem over whelming. Obstacles are less intimidating if we break them down into small achievable goals instead of getting overwhelmed and giving up. Eat it all at once you might get a terrible case of ingestion. 

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Incremental Progress

I had a chance to apply this principle during a ski trip with my husband. We were skiing the Schilthorn in Switzerland.  (The Schilthorn run is shown in a James Bond movie and start for the world’s longest down hill ski race called the “Inferno.”)

Confidently, I took the cable car up the mountain.  After debarking I glanced down at the steepest slope I had ever seen in my life.    

My first impulse was just to sit down and give up.  But my husband kindly said, “Don’t look at the whole hill at once. Do you see that tree over there about 25 feet away?  Can you ski just to that?”  I nodded “Yes, I could.”  He skied with me to the tree.

“Now can you ski to the small knoll and then to the large pine?”  And so it went until bit by bit until eventually, I skied the entire hill. 

What’s Your Elephant?

We all face challenges that seem over powering.  Whether it is unexpected death, career disappointment, or chronic illness we can find ourselves facing an elephant that needs to be eaten in small sections. 

While striving for sobriety addicts are told, “Don’t try and be clean for the rest of your life, just take one day at a time.”

One hill at a time and one day at time all are ways conceptualize breaking a difficult task down into small achievable goals.  Does losing 20 lbs seem overwhelming to you? Break down the task. 

1.   Plan meals

2.   Shop for food

3.   Begin eating according to plan

4.   Gradually add exercise

Understand Your Brain Chemistry

It’s hard by the yard but it is an cinch by the inch because our brains are hard wired to work through small successes at a time.

How does it work?

 Monica Mehta says,

“….with each small success, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine. When dopamine flows into the brain’s reward pathway (the part responsible for pleasure, learning and motivation), we not only feel greater concentration but are inspired to re-experience the activity that caused the chemical release in the first place.

Understand how your brain is wired—progression comes from small actions every day. 

Here is an interesting interview with famous quarterback, Steve Young where he talks about his struggle with anxiety. If you skip to 6.50 minutes on the counter Young says, “You get through it one day at a time…”


Don’t let the elephant sit down and squish the life out of you.  Take control, one bite at a time.  As Bill Murray learned in What About Bob?, it’s baby steps for success.

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“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

  Francis of Assisi

Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW

Contact Me/ 801.472.7134/

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Quote: how to eat an elephant by Creighton Abrams




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