“Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow.”
—Catherynne M. Valente
This short article was inspired by an email we received this morning from a new course student:
Dear Marc and Angel,
I have a big problem. I’m intelligent, highly educated in my field of study, and have achieved numerous professional accolades while working for large corporations over the years, but now that I’ve branched out on my own as an entrepreneur I’m stuck in a rut. I have dozens of good ideas that I can easily execute on, but every time I rev up and start taking massive action, I get overwhelmed and scared. I start second-guessing my choices and myself. Or I start worrying about and obsessing over all the possibilities for both success and failure, until everything comes to a halt and I’m utterly exhausted. There’s so much I want to achieve, and I know I’m capable if I could just get beyond this. What do you recommend?
An Overwhelmed Student
Our reply (an open reply to all who feel overwhelmed):
Dear Overwhelmed Student,
It’s time for a quick story about life…
Once upon a time there was a woman who had been lost in the desert for three whole days without water. Just as she was about to collapse, she saw what appeared to be a lake just a few hundred yards in front of her. “Could it be? Or is it just a mirage?” she thought to herself.
With the last bit of strength she could muster, she staggered toward the lake and quickly learned that her prayers had been answered: it was no mirage – it was indeed a large, spring-fed lake full of fresh water – more fresh water than she could ever drink in her lifetime. Yet while she was literally dying of thirst, she couldn’t bring herself to drink the water. She simply stood by the water’s edge and stared down at it.
There was a passerby riding on a camel from a nearby desert town who was watching the woman’s bizarre behavior. He got off his camel, walked up to the thirsty woman and asked, “Why don’t you have a drink, ma’am?”
She looked up at the man with an exhausted, distraught expression across her face and tears welling up in her eyes. “I am dying of thirst,” she said, “But there is way too much water here in this lake to drink. No matter what I do, I can’t possibly finish it all.”
The passerby smiled, bent down, scooped some water up with his hands, lifted it to the woman’s mouth and said, “Ma’am, your opportunity right now, and as you move forward throughout the rest of your life, is to understand that you don’t have to drink the whole lake to quench your thirst. You can simply take one sip. Just one small sip… and then another if you choose. Focus only on the mouthful in front of you, and all your anxiety, fear and overwhelm about the rest will gradually fade.”
Marc and Angel
Challenge yourself today to focus solely on the sip (task, step, etc.) you’re actually taking.
Honestly, that’s all life is – small, positive actions that you take moment by moment, and then one day when you look back it all adds up to something worthwhile – something that’s often far better, and different, than what you had imagined when you started.
So please leave a comment below and let us know:
What’s the one small, positive action you are going to focus on today?
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Photo by: dekoekkoek
Totally needed this! Like literally!
Wow! I’m recently divorced, selling a home, putting my youngest through college and venturing into the dating world. This post could not have come at a better time. Thank you!
Thank you so much! Today I need to read something like that. Thanks!
Jerelle Jordan says
My sister just sent me this article because I’ve been struggling with my MBA dissertation, so much so that I haven’t even started yet and it’s due in May. I guess my small step is just to start. This is very timely and truly needed.
Well I’m just going to focus on taking one breath at a time! Right now that will be a major milestone! Thank you for sharing your letter! I’m sure it will help alot of people!
Nathan S says
I won’t ask if I need to ride a camel to become that wise. I already know the answer: I just need to read your blog. I’d say the Lord has guided me to your site. I don’t know if you are a believer in Him but I see you are doing His work. Thank you so much.
Cristina Liriano says
Every day I teach people this concept of taking small, incremental steps to achieve their goals and I know that this is difficult even for me personally. I’ll keep this handy to remind myself and my teams of this.
Today I focused on cleaning out one closet. I got rid of one bag of recycling, four bags of garbage, and six bags of donations. I started to feel overwhelmed making decisions about the rest, so I organized it neatly and put it back in the closet. I’m choosing to focus on the six bags of donations in the back of my car, ready for delivery tomorrow.
Julie @ HappinessSavouredHot says
Fantastic analogy. There is often an undertone of perfectionism and anxiety in the way we handle opportunity – hence our fatal hesitation and procrastination. One little bite, one little step at a time, we get closer to our goal. And sometimes the doors open before we even touch the handle, showing us the way.
I have a 15 year old son that I have been telling this to. I keep telling him to focus on the small steps to reach his goal. However, as much as I remind him of this I didn’t realize I need to listen to this advice as well until I read your post. I really enjoy the work you two do. Since finding your website I have started looking more positively at life and have been able to control more how I think and react to life. Thank you so much for everything you do.
Love this article for its conciseness an brevity. I am also taking small steps towards a giant leap. I am aiming to develop a software or web service to make world a better place and putting an eye on every problem the society and people are facing and how the service would benefit them to make life easier. Though I am going through many complexities, I am loving it and it is true that even small amount of works done towards the goal, adds up to produce a big effect, all you need is patience and perseverance.
My small step for today? Ummm…I’m having a hard time just thinking of one.
I have a lot going on right now. I’m 55 tears old and raising my 5 year old grandson. I’m exhausted and really stressed. I’m hoping that his parents can’t take him back one day (it’s been a year and a half). I’m afraid that my daughter is going to make another poor choice and I will be raising my little buddy for 15 more years.
I’m married to a man thAt people would kill to marry, yet I’m not happy. I raised and home schooled my own two children, while fighting depression.
And, I’m working on starting a business (I’m an artist). I’m overwhelmed and unsure of myself. My head is swirling.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu
A Student says
OMG! you are literally a genius!
All my life I have been trying to take out most of each and every thing, every second like it is going to go away. I’m really impatient now that I see. What you just said was not something I found out, its something I realized I was aware of all this time but could not reach out and grab it. I am going to be more patient with myself and let the things take the time they need, even if I don’t have that much. Because it will happen eventually if not immediately……..
Thanks a ton.
I needed this today ?