How Do You Eat An Elephant?

How To Eat An Elephant
How To Eat An Elephant

Are you setting any New Year’s Resolutions this year? I totally am.

I didn’t always. In fact, there were many years where I went with the half-hearted, “I’m going to try to drink more water this year and be nicer to people”- style resolution. You can imagine how well that went over, especially seeing as how I still struggle to drink enough water every day.


But, this year, I have set myself some huge goals (I prefer the word “goals” over “resolutions”).

How in the world I am going to make these enormous goals actually come to fruition. Throwing a goal out there is good, but unless I know how I’m going to get there, it’s not going to happen. I might as well be driving to a foreign country without a map.


So, how am I going to make my goals a reality? By following these principles:

Plan Out All, Or At Least, As Many Steps As You Can

This is super simple for my running goals after so many years of running. For instance, I have a marathon in March which I want to run in less than four hours.


To get there, I know that I’ll have to run a lot of miles and some of them will need to be pretty fast. I’ll need to eat well, sleep well, recover well and cross-train well. I’ll need to train in similar conditions and on similar terrain. I’ll need to prepare my mind with positive affirmations and self-talk. I’ll have to keep track of how many miles I run in my shoes so that, I can replace them when they’re worn out. I’ll have to make sure I have something appropriate to wear for the weather conditions.

I’ll have to track my daily and weekly mileage with an eye to building up mileage with less risk of injury. This means I need to plan for some heavy volume training weeks as well as low volume weeks. I’ll need to count how many weeks it is before race day and figure out my weekly long run distances. With consistency being a key component of training, I’ll need to focus on my long runs more.


Since I’m both a mom and a wife, I’ll have to cross-check others’ activities to see if my long runs can happen on Sundays as planned. Else, I’ll need to schedule them earlier in the week or later in the day. And beyond all that scheduling and preparing, I’ll need to actually run.

That’s twenty different actions I’ll need to take to get me to marathon day. And those were just things I thought of off the top of my head just now, there might be more.


Sometimes with goal setting, I think a lot of us fall into that, “If I can dream it, I can do it” mentality, which is not a good plan at all.

Keep The Goals In Plain Sight

I’ve heard this advice before, but until 2015, I had never tried it. And now, I highly recommend it!


Last December, I sat down with one of my notebooks and noodled out a list of things I wanted to do in my life, along with the steps I would need to take to achieve them. Okay, maybe I missed some of the details I would need, but that’s not the point of this segment.

Not only had I never took the time to write my goals before, but I had never been public about my dreams. I might have mentioned to my husband in years past that maybe I would like to do something or the other. But, last year, I took that notebook paper and taped it right to the edge of my computer screen, where I spend most of the time every day. I looked at those words every single day this year. So did everybody else who lives in my house (my desk is in the living room, and my husband also uses the computer). There was no hiding from those goals, no pretending that maybe I didn’t want them anyway. Nope. They were out there, in the public domain, staring me in the face every day.


And, no, I did not meet all those goals, but I sure did spend a lot of time thinking about them; much more than I would have if I had just thought about them on December 31st and then forgotten by March.

Having a daily, visual reminder of my goals kept me on target to achieving them. This, coupled with the research and outlining phase mentioned above, is an unbeatable combination. Knowing exactly where you want to go, how you want to get there and thinking about that goal is a powerful focus technique many athletes use.

Think About The Big Picture, But Focus On The Daily Details

This one might be the toughest of the three. Having a big, lofty goal can be overwhelming. which you might actually want, but big goals are scary because they are so big.

If I hadn’t run several other marathons before, the list above what I need to do between now and the race day might be intimidating. But, for that particular goal, I know where I’m going and I’ve accomplished a similar goal many times. So, it’s not that bad.

But what about a bigger goal that I haven’t done before?

Well, that’s when I pull something I call ‘The Duality of the Mind’ out of my bag of tricks. Psychologists might have an official word or phrase for what I’m about to describe, but I don’t know what it is. This is something I discovered on my own. It is a method I often use when I’m doing something unpleasant or lengthy.

One part of my brain knows, understands and acknowledges what I’m doing or about to do is a huge task and thus, plans and works on it. But, at the same time, the other part of my brain focuses only on the tiny little detail in front of it.

For example, when I’m running a marathon, I know about it. I mean, I signed up, I trained for it, I arrived at the venue early in the morning wearing running clothes, so, yeah. I know I’m running it. But I don’t allow myself to think about it too much. Instead, I focus on running one mile. Most marathons have markers of some sort at each mile, and if they don’t, my GPS watch has a chime, so I always know when I’ve completed a mile. And that’s what I do for the time it takes me to complete the race. I run one mile at a time. Eventually, all those single miles add up to 26.2 and I’m done, without thinking how big the whole task was. I frequently “surprise” myself with accomplishments like this.

P.S. I almost forgot to explain the title of this post! It’s an old saying, and one that I use as a mantra often during long runs and races: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Cheers to an exciting and successful 2016!