How to eat an elephant!!

There is a very popular book by Bill Hogan named, ‘How Do You Eat an Elephant? One Bite at a Time!‘. While the idea of eating an elephant sounds very weird, the metaphor is spot on. The very idea of eating an elephant can overwhelm all our senses at once. However, instead of thinking about how we will ever finish a giant pachyderm in our lifetime, we will inch closer to success, just by thinking about how to eat the next bite. This applies to all our lofty challenges that we set for ourselves. Climbing the Everest, running an ultra-marathon, generating 7 figures of revenue in your business, speaking in front of an audience of 1000, you name it. The common thing about all these goals is that the moment we think about starting on it right now, it is way too overwhelming even just to think about it. So, how do we eat an elephant?

Breaking it down to pieces


This looks obvious, but many miss out on this necessity. Breaking a goal down into smaller achievables makes them look immediately attainable and we can start to think of a clear path between where we are now and where we want to be. It is well known that human brain can work more effortlessly with smaller numbers rather than larger ones, so give it that advantage. E.g. if your goal is to clean your entire house in the next 7 days, your mini-goals should be as little as dumping all the clothes in the washing machine to be cleaned (5 minutes), swabbing the kitchen floor, which may just be a 40 square feet area (may take just 15 minutes) and so on. The tasks immediately become small, doable and even seem to take less time. The brain suddenly gets motivated into putting a process in place and even tries to find out a time slot to make it happen.

Setting up a regular routine instead of looking at a distant goal


Goals are typically destinations and refer to a distant future. Sometimes, thinking about this distant place on that distant day in the future can leave us unmotivated, making us spin thoughts about how long we still have to go and how we will ever get there. To arrest these far-reaching thoughts, one can do something that can make us live right here, right now.

Often goals need us to make lifestyle changes and form new habits to get there. E.g. to be able to finish our dream book, we need to write 200 pages in two months. If we are starting today, 200 pages in the future seems way too much to attempt. But if we were to set ourselves up for a habit, e.g. I will write 5 pages every day, starting at 8am. Now suddenly, we are right here, right now. All we should worry about is to get 5 pages done for the day. We just need to worry about waking up, so that we are at our desk by 8am and have started to write. Then we should worry about filling just 5 pages for the day during our writing session.

Starting off with something ridiculously simple

We often set goals that require a big jump from our current lifestyle or make us do something we have never or rarely done before. Take running a 21-km marathon for instance. The sheer thought of running so much distance can overwhelm us and make us resistant to start our practice. However, the key is not to run so much when you are just starting off. In fact, only the tiniest of pushes should be applied when you are attempting to begin a habit. It should be something so ridiculously simple that you cannot refuse. E.g. Instead of running 21km or even 2km on day 1, commit to running just half a kilometre. With such a tiny commitment, you will run out of excuses not to do it. Similarly, if you are attempting to write a book, commit to just writing one paragraph.

Chances are that once you start the tiny activity, momentum will build up and you will probably finish more that what you promised yourself and feel a sense of accomplishment and a motivation boost to continue your habit everyday.

Continuously improving in tiny steps

Now that you have started your new habit, you may be tempted to switch gears and perform really high. It is best to resist the temptation to increase your performance by too much too soon. For one, it may lead to burnout. Secondly, in the eagerness to boost performance, you may be compromising on some good practices. E.g. Changing your swimming speed from 2kmph to 3kmph on a single day will burn your body out. If you were writing two paragraphs per day and suddenly you have written three pages today, there is a possible chance that you didn’t take your time to think through the content as well as you did the previous day and that you were more focused on getting more pages out of the way.

It is best to go with tiny increments. If you swam 10 laps yesterday, today you should do no more than 12. If you have been writing 3 pages every day, today you should increase your content by 2 more paragraphs.

Contrast this with the fact that with some habits, you may be stuck with doing the same thing everyday. E.g. swimming 10 laps a day for a month in a row or consuming the same quantity of cheese, even one month after you have promised yourself to cut down on fats. Your goal is to increase the effectiveness of your habit everyday so that it transforms your lifestyle. For this it is necessary to see continuous transformation. A rule of the thumb is to aim for an improvement of at least 1% in every successive attempts. That may to be work longer, or run faster or replacing 10 grams of fats with 10 grams of vegetables every day as your habit progresses.

Slowing down your run to a jog

Lets face it. Routines are not necessarily exciting. There will be days when you will be bored of it. Writing that 10th page of 15 pages will seem like an ordeal. And so will boredom strike you when you are running the 6th kilometre out of your 10. You will be fighting one or both of two urges. The first urge is impatience and you will be tempted to speed up so that you can get it over with. The second is the feeling of exhaustion and giving up mid-way. I would request you to not give in to either. The first urge can prompt you to do things too fast and make mistakes. In case of workout goals, you may burn out and in case of goals such as writing, the output will be sub-par and you will be forced to re-do it later. The second option of giving up is, well, never an option.

The best thing to do in this situation is what the instructors of hiking trips would tell you to do. You have to slow down your run into a walk. You cannot accelerate your way to the summit. Stopping would break your built-up momentum and may even cause cramps. The best way is to dial back your pace to about 50%, but keep progressing. This will take more time than usual, but you will still be moving forward. It also makes you more mindful and you begin to enjoy your leisurely walk, paying more attention to the surroundings.

Bored of practising long range free kicks in football? No problem, just slowly dribble the ball into the goal for sometime. Bored of writing about business in serious paragraphs? No problem, take a break from the monotony of the book and write the next paragraph as a small story / anecdote about one of your business experiences.

Reviewing and adjusting

Even the most carefully planned path to the goal and the routine can suffer setbacks and undergo changes. Perhaps you were too slow at the beginning and you feel that your initially promised deadline will not be met. That is totally okay. You can revise your deadline if that is what needs to be done.It is okay to delay your 7-figure income goal by another 3 months. Perhaps you decided that your initial goal was a bit too lofty and that you are happier with something less. That is okay too. You can build a routine around your new target. You may have wanted your biceps to measure 21 inches, but then even 19 looks good on the mirror. No problem. You can dial back your number of reps and go a little easier on the protein supplement. Perhaps you still have a sweet tooth and your zero-sugar diet has been robbing the fun out of your life for the last 2 months. No problem, you can still continue to have sweets in moderation.

Do remember that your life changes and priorities change and that your goals should be in sync with what you want out of your life. This will need constant review and pivoting. Sometimes it may even need totally dropping a goal which isn’t working for you at all. It is okay not to finish the elephant that you started eating, but at least you didn’t give up before starting. At least you jumped in with both your feet and tried your best.


So there it is. You may not be able to eat an elephant in one go. You many not finish eating it today, right now. But if you build a routine, eat one bite at a time and stick to it, then you maximise your chances of getting there eventually. You may not succeed immediately, but you will succeed certainly.

How have really lofty goals overwhelmed you in the past? How did you approach them and overcome them?

Published by

Harikrishna Natrajan

Unleashing life's full potential

99 thoughts on “How to eat an elephant!!”

  1. Pingback: My Homepage
  2. Therefore your uncle as a final point caved very last winter months and even got the modern buy wow gold eu tendency for the couple of years, a dark-colored bailey key. It turned out the girl very first buy wow gold eu get and he or she wore these people repeatedly, alas the part of all the length across the link flapped across immediately after in regards to 7-day period and made that improbable to take care of! The woman applied all those meals keep going the winter season and they are generally nonetheless on excellent design except for typically the “flap” since we desire to think of it as. All people I realize with your buy wow gold eu have the similar issue. Be cautioned… It could actually happen to you!

  3. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was conducting a little research on this.
    And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I found it
    for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank
    YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending
    some time to talk about this subject here on your website.

  4. Hey outstanding blog! Does running a blog like this take a lot of work?
    I’ve absolutely no understanding of computer programming however I had been hoping to start my
    own blog in the near future. Anyhow, if you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners
    please share. I know this is off topic nevertheless I simply needed to ask.

  5. به چت روم محبوب یـــــــــــــک چـتـــــروم خوش آمدید , برای ورود به اتاق های چت همسریابی کلیک کنید. یک چت روم سایت همسر یابی. چت و آشنایی و دوستیابی رایگان.

  6. Good web site you may have got here.. It’s difficult to find top quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I honestly appreciate individuals such as you!
    Be careful!!

  7. Howdy! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My blog looks weird when viewing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a
    theme or plugin that might be able to fix this problem.

    If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!

  8. Howdy! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know
    how to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when viewing from my
    iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this issue.
    If you have any suggestions, please share. Many thanks!

  9. I’m really impressed along with your writing talents as neatly as with the structure on your
    weblog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify
    it your self? Either way keep up the excellent high quality writing,
    it is rare to peer a great blog like this one these days..

  10. Hi there, I believe your site may be having internet browser compatibility issues.

    When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues.
    I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that, wonderful site!

  11. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It
    is the little changes which will make the biggest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  12. I am curious to find out what blog system you’re working with?
    I’m having some small security issues with my latest website and I
    would like to find something more secure. Do you have any suggestions?

  13. You’ve made some decent points there. I looked on the internet to learn more regarding the issue and found the majority of people goes together with
    your opinion of this website.

  14. When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is
    added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment.
    Is there an easy method you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

  15. Just wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity to your submit is simply great
    and that i can suppose you’re an expert on this subject.
    Well along with your permission allow me to grasp your feed to
    keep up to date with drawing close post. Thank you one million and please continue the enjoyable work.

  16. Superb blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a
    paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..
    Any ideas? Cheers!

  17. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you could
    be a great author.I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will often come
    back very soon. I want to encourage you to continue your great
    posts, have a nice day!

  18. I do not know whether it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing issues with your
    blog. It appears as if some of the written text within your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please
    provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too?
    This could be a issue with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.

  19. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are
    an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me
    to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming
    post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

  20. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I am quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here!

    Good luck for the next!

  21. Hi there I am so delighted I found your site, I really found
    you by mistake, while I was browsing on Digg for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a remarkable post and a all
    round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I dont have time to look
    over it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I
    will be back to read more, Please do keep up the great work.

  22. I’mtruly enjoying the design and layout of your website.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant
    ffor me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire
    out a developer to create your theme? Outstanding work!

  23. I seldom leave a response, however I browsed some of the comments here How to eat an elephant!!
    | We Are The Living. I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s
    allright. Could it be only me or do some of these responses come across as
    if they are coming from brain dead individuals?
    😛 And, if you are writing at other places, I would
    like to keep up with everything new you have to post. Would you list of all of your shared sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or
    twitter feed?

  24. I got this website from my buddy who informed me regarding this site and now this
    time I am visiting this web site and reading very informative articles
    at this place.

  25. Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe this web site
    needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for
    the advice!

  26. I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site.

    I am hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well.

    In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal
    website now 😉

  27. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little homework on this.

    And he in fact ordered me dinner simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your blog.

  28. When someone writes an post he/she maintains the idea of a
    user in his/her brain that how a user can know it. Thus that’s why this
    paragraph is great. Thanks!

    1. Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing in your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!

    2. Hey Rashmie,Thanks a lot for pinning & sorry for the late response! The copper plate is from Mom’s tresure of utensils. I specially prepared puri’s to compliment the dish for blog and you know what, we had these puris and sabzi with evening tea !

    3. If I were playing hide-and-go-seek,I would hide in my wardrobe.There are many clothes in it and I can bury myself in it albeit it is a little hot.When I was a little girl, I always hide myself in it when feeling melancholy.It was thaks to my sister that she knows me very well so I could unburden myself to her.And this memory is one of the best parts of my childhood.

    4. Yesterday I heard on C-Span a Google Director defending the first amendment. – BRAVO. He did very well.It's a long time I admire Google for filtering at a reasonable minimum only in a time where the whole world media is hyper Biased – -Let people say what they want – at least you know where they are.PS – and give some more than 500 words : words are not very bit-consuming.

    5. c131Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such magnificent info being shared freely out there.16

  29. If some one needs to be updated with most up-to-date technologies afterward he must be go to see this site and be up
    to date everyday.

  30. Hey there superb blog! Does running a blog like this take a large amount of work?
    I have absolutely no knowledge of coding but I was hoping to
    start my own blog soon. Anyways, if you have any ideas or
    techniques for new blog owners please share. I know this is off
    subject however I just had to ask. Many thanks!

  31. I love what you guys tend to be up too. This sort of clever work
    and exposure! Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll.

  32. Er man gammel, bevegelseshemmet osv og vil ha problemer med selv
    å skifte dette, bør det vurderes om ikke en kablet alarm
    er bedre.

  33. The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to
    see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she
    can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she
    has 83 views. I know this is completely off
    topic but I had to share it with someone!

  34. Great post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am inspired!
    Extremely helpful info specifically the remaining part
    🙂 I maintain such info a lot. I used to be seeking this particular info for a long time.
    Thanks and best of luck.

  35. Google plus, for my functions, is a network to get
    the word out – to obtain actual links to a post (if I have my search engine optimization hat

  36. Reminds me of my marathon training days…by tilting the proportion of run and walk to increase run, add a few 100M more by the week, watching the diet, pre-post workout routine, and a few other bits and bytes, made it possible to finish the half marathon of 21.1 Km doable. My little bites of the elephant 🙂

    1. Yup Priya, it works wonderfully well for the long distance activities like marathon, cycling and swimming. Starting small and adding a few metres every session. Glad to know that you were not able to finish one, but four half marathons 🙂

Comments are closed.