Making Molehills out of Mountains (or Doing the Reverse Mushu)


Things add up very quickly in life.  Deadlines loom, obligations pressure, to-do items stack, and somehow in the middle of all of this we want to fit in time to achieve something for ourselves.  In the face of everything else we face in life, something as simple as losing 5 pounds, or finishing that novel you start months ago can start to seem like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.

The good news for us is that the tasks that we set out to do are not nearly as difficult as they seem.  Many people, trying to provide some sort of motivation, talk about the incredible capacity for change and achievement in an individual.  That’s all well and good to certain extent.  The human body is an absolute marvel, and the things that some people have accomplished are astounding.  Having said that, I don’t believe that the dragons that most of us face require that sort of capacity for achievement, or that the dragons we face are dragons at all.  So many “incredible” things are within arms reach if we just realize that instead of a fire breathing monster, we’re looking at a lizard that we’ve built up in our heads.

The process of clearing the smoke and seeing the lizard you face is a surprisingly easy one.  It takes a piece of paper, a pen, and a few simple steps.

  1. At the top of your paper, write down a goal of yours.  In my case, it’s becoming capable of holding a conversation in Spanish in the next two months.
  2. Break down your dragon in to smaller parts.  A bit of time on google doesn’t hurt here, but don’t spend more than a couple minutes.  What does it take to speak a language?  Words!  Yes, words!  I’m going to need to learn the vocabulary of the language.  I also need to learn what to do with those words, so grammar is a must.  Beyond that, I need to speak it, so pronunciation and practice with implementation are necessary as well.  That’s pretty much it.
  3. Break it down further.  We’re making lizards in this step!  There are a lot of words in the Spanish language, so I need to make this more manageable.  How about the 100 most common words, 100 most common verbs that don’t fall in that category, and then the top 500 most common words once I’ve achieved those?  I now have smaller goals, and even a basic progression to look at.  Grammar is convenient because it comes in organized chunks anyway.
  4. Screw it- we’re going smaller!  Lets make this happen day by day, week by week.  For my example, I have a minimum of 200 words to learn in 8 weeks.  That comes down to 25 words per week, or 5 new words per day.  Easy!  Grammar and speaking?  I discovered Pimsleur some time ago, and it does a fantastic job of covering both.  If I do one lesson on the drive to work, and repeat on the way back home, 5 days a week, I can knock out a very large portion of their very effective Spanish lessons in 8 weeks.  I can also work on the verb conjugations, one tense per weeks in conjunction with the rest of the practice.
  5. Stick to it.

That’s it!

While the steps are fairly straight forward, and many people make it through the first four, many struggle with sticking to it. I’ll be covering a few strategies in the future to help, and what to do when they strategies fail.

Do yall have any experience with challenges that seemed too big to handle, or strategies for dealing with them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!



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