Monday, January 18, 2010

Down to the Single Units

“When you're feeling down just hold your head up high and don't think of the whole big thing. Just focus on doing one thing at a time. You'll see that you will accomplish a lot, if not everything at the end of the day.” ~ Author unknown

Occasionally, when I go shopping for groceries I also purchase a small bouquet of flowers to display on the kitchen table. There is something special about fresh flowers in the winter – their fragrance can turn the grayest of days into a sudden burst of spring.

Yesterday I brought home a bouquet of mixed field flowers. I removed the wrap and looked for scissors to trim the ends. I couldn’t find the “good” pair, so I had to settle for the ones that don’t cut too well. When I tried to cut the stems they only bent, so I tried to apply more pressure to see if it would help; again, the stems bent a bit more but still remained attached to the flowers. I gave up my original thought of cutting the bunch of them and focused on severing one at a time. When I tried to cut just one, the blades of the scissors went through the single stem like a knife cutting butter. If I had followed that approach from the beginning, instead than trying to get all the stems cut at the same time, I would have finished sooner rather than later.

Many of us approach most tasks in the same fashion, only to become discouraged and overwhelmed by the mere thought of getting started. We try to tackle the whole array of tasks as a collective unit, and end up just getting irritated by our inability to succeed.

Huge undertakings are seen as a wall looming in front of us, which will suck our life energy as we try to either climb over it or remove it from our path. It is significant to remember that no matter how solid the wall might appear, it is not a large single unit we are powerless against, but rather a group of many smaller units connected together to form a larger structure. We might not be able to move the wall from the path as a whole, but we are certainly strong enough to remove one brick at a time.

When we feed energy toward removing the whole wall, we set ourselves up for failure and create an excuse why we shouldn’t even attempt. If, instead, we pace ourselves and focus on removing one brick at a time, we are able to direct our energy where it will make a difference.

We could push the wall for hours without moving it an inch and easily fall into the grip of frustration, but we can instantly see the brick taken from its original position and moved where we want it. With each brick that we move, we wall is less threatening. Small successes can add up and trigger strong feelings of self-satisfaction and worth, as we are able to see results of our applied effort almost immediately.

So whether we are facing cutting the stems of a bouquet of flowers, removing debris from our path, losing unwanted weight, or facing a daunting task of any nature, it is helpful if we break the structure of what we are hoping to conquer into small units that we can focus on one at a time. By doing so we are not neglecting the whole, but rather we are ensuring that each part of it is properly addressed and polished to perfection.