They say the only way to eat an elephant (when, metaphorically speaking, you’ve got a LOT on your plate and it seems like you’ll never be able to do it all) is One Bite At A Time. One of the hardest things for my students is time management. Like all of us, they struggle with the length of their to-do lists, how to prioritize the tasks at hand, a myriad of distractions and just the sheer volume of it all. Something they also struggle with is simply getting started. Just learning a new skill, a new song, feels daunting. We’re haunted by thoughts of “I’m not ready”, “I’m not good enough”, “there’s not enough time”, “I’ll never be able to do it”, and all of the variations on those.
It’s easy to say, of course, but a) none of these things are true, and b) you for sure won’t be able to do it if you never start. Naturally, it’s not that hard to get going on a Portuguese egg tart–especially the ones with chocolate filling pictured above (thanks, Nova Era!). But just like anything else, you can only eat them one bite a time too. How to get ourselves into the growth mindset and get down to work?
We all feel afraid to look foolish, and we dread the awkwardness of not being right/good at something the first time we attempt it. But I encourage my students (and secretly, myself) on a daily basis to–snake-like–shed the old, unneeded skin of our former disbelieving selves, and just get invested in doing the work. I remind them to start slowly with something easy, start with a very small chunk. Like author Daniel Coyle (The Talent Code) says, chunk it, repeat it, learn to feel it. And be willing to repeat it until you get to what he calls the “smallest achievable perfection”. Once there, that’s a first bite. And having tasted that sweet success, however small it was, we build courage to move on to the next thing. If we can get good at taking the first bite of that new, scary thing, maybe it will start to go down just as deliciously as, say, a Portuguese egg tart?