When we get overwhelmed with options and to-dos, sometimes we choose not to choose. It’s the easiest thing to do, but it leaves life unlived. Many things wait, untouched, sometimes forever, because we don’t know where to start.
How do we overcome it? How do we start? The answer is amazing. It’s simple.
A few days ago, I began work at my former place of employment as a temporary consultant/trainer/fire extinguisher.
Gazing upon a vast sea of paperwork rippling with error and neglect, I felt overwhelmed. For the first day, I didn’t know where to look or what to pick up. I spent hours shuffling papers around without direction or purpose. I accomplished little because I couldn’t pinpoint a good place to start. The truth is there were too many good places to start. The heap was too big, its shadow spread wide.
After all that, I had to come home and find time and energy to write articles for websites, essays for anthologies, lists for editors, posts for blogs, and lists for grocery shopping. I wanted to stop. I wanted to do nothing because it’s too big, too much, and I didn’t know where to start.
How could I keep from being stunned into inaction?
The thing is I didn’t need to start at the beginning. I just had to start. I was looking at Everest in a wide shot when I should have focused on just one step at a time.
The next day, I picked up one paper, decided what to do with it, did it, and repeated.
Instead of seeing a list, see one item on the list. Pick one thing and do it. That’s the answer.
I knew it all along. We all know it. I just needed a little reminder. It’s always such a freeing experience to realize and create your own relief, to answer your own questions.
My husband and I remodeled our kitchen a few years ago. We wanted a new kitchen, but waited for a long time because the enormity of the project overwhelmed us. Flooring, walls, counters, cabinets, fixtures, curtains, etc. all make for a large, expensive, time-consuming project.
But one thing at a time isn’t overwhelming. Instead of seeing the kitchen, we saw only the floor. We ripped it up. The walls came into view. I tore one down and painted the others. We uprooted cabinets and counter tops. I sanded, stained, and lacquered new cabinets, one by one. We called a friend who flattened piles of Saltillo into a beautiful floor.
Then, it was all done. The stress melted when we focused on one piece of the picture at a time. Like a puzzle. Put one piece in, then the next, until it’s complete. So it is with everything.
I implore you not to ignore the things you want to do, be, learn, or have because they are too big or involve too much. Because they aren’t and they don’t. You don’t have to know where to start. It doesn’t matter if you start at the beginning or in the middle. Just start with one piece. If you don’t, your life will never get done, and then it’ll be over.