The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one. - Mark Twain
I was coaching in Herefordshire last week and took our family lurcher, Ebby, for a walk early on Friday morning. It was one of those "new school term" days where the air feels crisp, there is a beautiful morning dew on the ground and I feel a new pair of school shoes is needed! The sky was a crisp blue and the sun beamed down on my father and I as we walked alongside the River Wye flowing silently gently beside us.
Isn't it wonderful when we can still be amazed by things as though we are seeing them for the first time, like a child in wonder. I spotted a wide a array of glistening areas amongst the long grass and plants. They were spiders' webs which had no doubt been spun overnight and the early morning sun was catching them spiked in dew. The intricate design of each and every one was so beautiful to see and inspired me so much. I thought about how much work goes into spinning those beautiful creations and how we would react as human beings if we needed to do the same!
When faced with a large task ourselves, like the thought of spinning a web, it would be so easy to say "it's too much work, or it's too hard, or I'm too tired, or I'm too old, etc!" The human brain is there for survival, so it will do whatever it needs to do to prevent us from doing anything which it thinks will wear us down, in other words to keep us safe. This can be misguided on many occasions and can prevent us from simply starting a job because it appears "too" much at that time. An alternative way of over-riding those thoughts is to chunk down the task. In doing this, it makes each part of the process so much more achievable and therefore allows our brains to see only each part at a time. The great thing about this idea is that every time we achieve something we set out to do (no matter how small) our confidence and self-esteem grows and the happiness drug in our bodies, serotonin, is produced.
When starting on the road to recovery from chronic conditions like M.E. or depression, for example, it is important to be able to chunk the recovery process down. This is what happened to me. I needed to think about my recovery not as a whole, but as independent parts of the same whole, where each part was helping to get me to full recovery and full recovery only happened when both my mind and body were ready and also when I was willing and able to learn the lesson that M.E. had been sent to teach me - "be true to yourself, ALWAYS". Each and every day, particularly during the early time with the condition, one thing I did was to break every task down into a manageable sections, for example, "I'm getting up, now I'm going to get in the shower, now I'm going to wash my hair, now I'm going to get out of the shower, now I'm going to dry myself, now I'm going to start to dress, etc, etc." I needed to do this because otherwise the thought of even getting up and doing all that would have been too much so I would have stayed in bed all day. At the time those tasks appeared insurmountable and unachievable, but today they now appear simple, though are never taken for granted. Achieving them took hours, because I was so exhausted, but I completed them and kept moving forward no matter how slow that progress was and without realising I was helping myself towards a slow, but steady road to recovery.
So if you are suffering from any long-term, chronic condition, I'd like to ask you a question
"What one thing can you do today which could help you to start on your own road to recovery?"
Here are 3 further ideas which helped me and may help you too:
- to use gratitude on a daily basis (it is the greatest antidote to fear and anxiety),
- to use affirmations throughout each day, such as "every day and in every way I'm feeling better and better, YES!",
- to practise nasal, abdominal breathing on a daily basis which helps to promote healthy blood flow around the body.
Remember the more you can achieve the tiny steps as part of a whole, the more motivated you are likely to be to complete the rest. This isn't going to happen overnight, but gradually, over time, momentum will take over and you will be further along the road to recovery or achievement than you ever thought possible.
What part of your web are you going to start spinning today?