How to Eat an Elephant

I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in the U.S. I spent some time with my family, visited some friends, and spent three weeks in Alaska, climbing Mt. McKinley. Mt. McKinley, or Denali, is the highest mountain in North America. Before I started the climb, I asked a climber who had just flown off the mountain if he had any last-minute advice. "Climb one day at a time," he said wisely.

Our lead guide, who has six summits of Mt. Everest, reinforced this sage advice when he asked us, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer, of course, is "One bite at a time." I'm taking this for granted, because I have never eaten an elephant, nor do I plan to. It made me think, however, that we all have our own "elephants" to eat. Sometimes it is best to remind ourselves to "eat" them one bite at a time.

Our unforgettable climb began at 7,200 feet where we arrived by aircraft at the Kahiltna glacier. The thought of ascending to 20,320 over a distance of about 15 miles (somewhat steep) was a little daunting that first day. After 5 days, we had only reached 11,000 feet but had covered more than half of the horizontal distance. This meant that the remaining elevation gain would be quite rapid. It was important to travel slowly, both for acclimatization purposes and to become stronger rather than weaker as the climb continued.

We reached the summit 13 days after we landed on the mountain. At times we traveled no faster than 1/4 mile per hour, breathing at a rate of 2-3 breaths per step as the amount of available oxygen gradually diminished. There were times when I thought I could only take one more step. So I would take it, and then I'd take one more, and one more, until I had climbed for two more hours.

Every day I stayed focused on that day. I didn't think about all the climbing that lay ahead, just what my task for that day was. At the beginning of each day, I knew I could do what had to be done, whereas if I thought too far ahead, I might have doubted my ability to finish.


What is the elephant in your life? Do you have a task that you have been putting off because it seems to big too tackle? What about a change you want to make in your life that would require time, patience and courage?

Write down at the top of a sheet of paper what it is that you want to do. Make a timeline for completion, and break the task into smaller, less intimidating steps. Continue breaking the task down until you think you can manage each individual step.

Now start eating that elephant!

If you would like some support "eating your elephant," please don't hesitate to send me an email!

Jenni Fogle, Personal Coach

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