Often times when I am faced with a task that I don’t know how I will complete, I feel a little overwhelmed. Not knowing how I will complete a task also means that I don’t know how long that particular task would take, and I since I usually have other things that need doing too, that stresses me out a bit. It becomes even more stressful when I don’t even know where to start. Something that generally helps me alleviate this kind of stressful situation is the thought that just improving one little thing will get me going on my way to a successful completion.
Let’s say that I’m trying to improve my ability to perform the short staff form, and I feel stressed because there seem to be so many things wrong with my performance of the form that I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to do it well. That can feel very discouraging. I feel better about it when instead of focusing on improving the entire form at once, I start by improving one thing that I know I need to work on. For example, perhaps I am not ending my form in the same space on the floor as when I started the form, so I go through the form focusing on how to improve this one factor by focusing on stance length, pivot points, etc. By choosing one element of the form to improve, the task of developing a better form is provided a temporary lens that is constructive for my movement towards the higher goal of developing the form as a whole. The seemingly large task of improving the whole form can become a bit easier in this why by tackling one element of the form at a time.
The same strategy can be employed even for non-martial arts tasks. For example, perhaps I have had a very busy week that has forced me to postpone all of my house cleaning until the weekend. In cases like this, my house can be quite dirty or unorganized having been neglected for a whole week. The task of clean my entire house can seem daunting at first as there seems like there is so much that needs to be done, and I would much prefer to not spend the whole day cleaning. If things are particularly disorganized, I might not even know where to begin the task of cleaning. In this situation, I can still make headway by striving to make things a bit better by simply improving one thing.
By starting with a easy and less disagreeable task such as sweeping the kitchen floor, I begin to move the higher goal of a clean house. In sweeping the floor I begin to build momentum; perhaps in sweeping the floor I notice that some magazines have fallen off my bookshelf, and I replace them; in replacing the magazines, I notice another book that was left of the table which I also replace to its spot on the shelf; in removing the book from the table, I notice that there really aren’t that many dishes on the table after all, and I can readily move them to the sink to be staged for washing; now the table is ready to be wiped down and the dishes are ready to processed for washing, and I’m all the while moving closer and closer to my higher goal of a clean house: one small task at a time.
This little trick has really worked wonders for me over the years, and it continues to serve me well in my current daily life. Not everyone has the same difficulties that I do in facing large tasks, but if you find that you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by something that needs to completed and you’re not even sure where to begin, give this a try.